Digital content has shifted dramatically in the last several years, as opportunities arise for people to contribute articles without the approval of publishing gatekeepers. Writers don’t have to work for a magazine or a newspaper in order to circulate their opinions, so the quality of their work is left to the scrutiny from the platform on which they wish to contribute.

As a result, the volume of content has increased at a time in which attention spans have decreased, leading to a demand for short, skimmable pieces. Therein lies the conflict surrounding “listicles,” the short, bulleted articles that have become so common online.

The problem is, listicles are easy (*cue hissing*). It’s a very simple template reminiscent of the elementary school five-paragraph essay – just fill in the necessary pieces and you’re done! You don’t have to worry about structure because it’s already in place, and the disjointed style doesn’t require much careful thought, heavy analysis of the topic, or narrative flow.

As a result, the format is often used as a crutch to cover for laziness. This is where the bad listicles come from, those that are short, insultingly simple, and little more than a list of blurbs with a two-sentence introduction and conclusion. They don’t delve into the issue, yet often imply a certain authority, especially in the case of ranked lists. They become that terrible sludge of the Internet: clickbait. That is a very bad association, but an undeserved one.

There is a case to be made for listicles, and they do have redeeming qualities if used correctly. Here are five reasons why listicles still have a place in the world of digital content – thought I must admit, number four is actually pretty mundane):

#1: They’re good for high-volume suggestions and low stakes advice.

Not every article has to win a Pulitzer; there are many applications for listicles on sites that cover topics like cooking or holidays. You know those videos where the uploader will give a five minute introduction to the video, talk about what you wanted to hear for thirty seconds, then move on to a two-minute outro? Listicles are basically the opposite of that. They’re all about getting to the point, which is key for light pieces –  there’s no need for rhetorical analysis when you’re listing “the best ways to serve apple pie” (it’s with a giant scoop of Dulce de Leche ice cream, in case you were wondering). This is especially true for topics that demand a lot of possibilities, such as “50 ideas for a good first date.”

#2: They’re easily digestible.

A common complaint about listicles is their simplicity, but it is exactly this trait that made them popular in the first place. They require the investment of very little concentration, and can be easily skimmed without missing out on the key points. Ever tried that with The New Yorker? You’d find yourself standing there with a forkful of egg halfway to your mouth, only to realize you’ve just read the same sentence six times. Listicles also give the reader the main points at a glance, with each section headlined by a brief statement about what’s to come. This allows people to almost passively take in the information. Despite what this may seem to reflect about the readers of listicles, it is unfair to assume that people always have the mental energy (or desire) to read through dense pieces of writing.

#3: They’re quick.

In 2015, people are absolutely ripping through digital content; in a couple hours, a reader may go through 30+ articles, not to mention countless pictures, video clips, and comment sections. Listicles are a small time investment, and if the content is bad, the reader hasn’t wasted more than two or three minutes. Two, three thousand word article? Ain’t nobody got time for that. Unless the reader is specifically looking for the topic discussed within an article of significant length, it is very unlikely that they will stick around to find out if it’s good enough to spend the time to read it.

#4: They’re good at generating discussion.

Again, it is true that people will use this as an excuse for lazy “journalism,” but listicles leave a lot open-ended, an effective technique for drawing a response from the audience. Because these articles have more breadth than depth, they allow the readers themselves to explore the topic, which is good for the writer and usually good for the discussion. This is especially true with ranked listicles, covering anything from the strongest superhero to the best electric car. If there’s anything that commenters on the Internet like to do, it is correct others and give their opinion, and ranked listicles do a great job prompting those responses.

#5: They’re eye-catching and pique our curiosity.

This is probably the most obvious, most talked about, and most important reason why listicles are here to stay. People write them because numbers work. The reason listicles have been used so heavily in the rash of clickbait is because they are eye-catching enough to draw readers to almost any sort of content. They make people wonder what’s included, what they might not know about, and what other people think about the list.

Listicles may not be a quality form of journalism, but they do their job well. Fortunately for lovers of the format, its popularity has thus far outweighed its scorn, and even drawn defense from serious publications. At the end of the day, the listicle is simply a template, and any responsibility for the quality of these articles resides firmly with those who write them. I’d love to tell you 9 reasons why, but I think you get the idea.