We all love top ten lists. As a society we’re obsessed by them. We gravitate towards sites with lists of the most famous, the best dressed (and worst dressed), the most influential and lists of biggest mishaps that have happened to celebrities. All we have to give is “The top ten reasons” for anything and there’s an audience for it somewhere. (Which reminds me. I need to do a few more list posts…)
Lists are great when they are done correctly but can quickly become a reputation train wreck if implemented poorly. You have to be sure to quantify the list you are presenting in the right manner. Failure to do so can result in reader confusion, blatant disregard for the information or worse, out-and-out revolt over the information you so laboriously gathered.
The reason for this cautionary tale is a list posted on slashfood.com titled The Ten Hottest Women in the Food Industry. In concept the post would be fine. It’s actually a pretty neat list as far as lists go. Sure, some will balk at the beauty pageant aspect of it, but hey, it’s good for a few comments and a light read, right?
Not if you screw it up, and man did they screw it up.
Slashfood has a fairly large full time editorial team and a large team of contributing authors. The list is presented as Slashfood’s picks for the ten hottest women in the food industry, so one can assume that the entire Slashfood team collaborated on the list and chose the winners as a group. The word “We” was used, so whether that is true or not, it’s inferred as being so, which has made people wonder where the staff at slashfood was looking to find the list of attractive women they were picking from.
While I’m sure that a lot of people could agree on some of the people in their list (Jaden Hair is a gorgeous lady and a sweetheart and yes, Katie Lee Joel is a bombshell and who doesn’t find Nigella Lawson attractive?) their other choices seem to be geared specifically to a TV audience that really has no connection to the food industry. I mean C’Mon Y’All! Paula is definitely a proud figure and well known, but there is no way in the world she qualifies in this bracket, not when viewed among the other people in the list, let alone all the other women in the entire industry.
At best this is someone’s hastily and poorly researched opinion. At worst it’s little more than link bait, but it definitely got attention. The comments are full of bewildered readers asking what the author was thinking and why in the world this person or that was not on the list, or even considered.
Any list with this much predisposition for personal opinions should have been put together from a reader poll or by asking readers to send in their recommendation via email or online form. At lest in that case it could have been presented as “The Slashfood Readers Choice of The Ten Hottest Women in the Food Industry”, rather than a supposedly definitive list based on a relatively small group of people. In that light it would have carried the weigh of a community, which validates the results to some extent.
Strangely enough, as I was writing this post a similar list was brought to my attention on twitter and it’s the perfect example of how to do this type of thing the right way. Forbes published its list of 10 Most Influential Women Chefs. A well done list with quantifiable reasoning behind the choices made and even though there is at least one person on the list I’m not personally fond of, I can’t argue the logic behind her inclusion. Forbes has the numbers to back up their choices, it’s as simple as that.
And that is where Slashfood failed. There’s nothing to make their list valid. Instead it comes across as laughable. This is odd considering the source. Slashfood is a huge name with high standards and a good editorial staff. In failing to clearly mark their list as the opinion of the staff (and forgetting to use the word “opinion” in the title) they failed to generate any credibility and failed their readers in the process.
The next time you write a list, keep these things in mind. Be fair to your readers and yourself. Nobody will question a list of “The ten best muffins you ever ate.” The most common challenge you’ll get to that list is a user asking if you’ve tried their favorite. It’s a conversation starter, and that’s great.
On the other hand, you’re leaving yourself open to negative comments if you write a post on “The ten best muffins in the Tri-State area.” this is a definitive title. In this case you may find an enraged fan of brand-X telling you that you obviously have no idea what you’re talking about.
OK, not likely in the case of muffins, but you get my point, right?
If you’ve got a list of the “The ten most popular ranges in America” that is based on data from a major retailer or consumer group, feel free to title the list exactly that way, just state your source. Your facts can’t be argued in this case and there is little chance of falling on your face.