Content Arbitrage: The Importance Of Guiding Your Readers Through A Listicle

Content arbitrage is not easy. Thousands of media publishers create what they hope will be the next Buzzfeed, only to fail within the first weeks or months ahead.

Why do these businesses fail? Oftentimes it boils down to a lack of understanding. They fail to understand what type of content they need, they fail to understand how to write content in an engaging manner, and they fail to understand how they can provide readers with a reason to stick around.

One of the biggest pitfalls in the content arbitrage space is failing to recognize how to guide readers through a listicle (aka a slideshow). A user may click-through to a story from a native ad unit only to abandon the article at slide 3 of 20.

Let’s dive into how we can build a successful piece of arbitrage friendly content.

The Power Of A Great Introduction



An opening paragraph should always include an actionable item that will leave your reader wanting more. Start by introducing the topic and then lead the story with some piece of information that piques a reader’s interest.

Example: It has been 15 years since Twin Peaks aired a new episode and you won’t believe what happened to one of the TV show’s biggest stars during that time.

Remember NOT to bury the lead of your story, readers want to understand exactly what they are getting themselves into when approaching a new and interesting topic. Hint at what they can expect but always leaving them wanting more.

Guide your readers towards the story with hints of what is about to happen in the form of some basic information and a shocking or interesting “coming up next” statement.

Slide Order Matters

Out of Order

Keeping a captured visitor engaged with your slideshow is crucial for improving overall pageviews, time-on-site, and bounce rate numbers.

Start with a shocking or engaging slide that excites the reader. This slide should include an image that aptly describes the slide. Include text that draws in the reader by focusing on their emotions.

Your slideshow should always tell a story. Arrange slides from most important to least important. As the reader jumps from the 1st slide to the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and so on, make sure you are progressing them through the focus of your post. If the reader feels like you are taking them on a journey they will be more likely to stick with the post until the very end — and beyond.

Actionable Teaser Statements

Next Big Thing

“If you think this behind-the-scenes prank was funny you won’t believe what the actress in #18 did to Steven Spielberg after filming wrapped.”

Piquing a reader’s curiosity is one of the easiest and most effective ways to keep them engaged with a slideshow. Even if they don’t like one of the slides, they are likely to continuing reading until they reach the slide that interests their imagination.

Typically Presto Media written articles will feature a leading statement every 2-4 slides. Don’t oversaturate the slideshow with these teasers or you’ll lose the reader in a sea of confusion.

Mix It Up With Different Types Of Facts

Fresh Prince

A popular form of listicle involves ‘where are they now’ explorations. Typically a publication will also include fun facts, behind the scenes drama, and other tidbits that go beyond a simple recap of an actor or actresses life.

The trick here is to keep the reader guessing what will happen next. Start with a main character’s history and then jump into a fun fact. Follow that slide with another where are they now teaser to be led by a bit of behind the scenes drama.

The goal here is to ensure that the reader remains interested in your story and doesn’t glaze over what you have written.

If you are tackling a post where very different examples can be given this is also a good trick. For example, if you are writing a post titled “These incredible facts will suddenly make you feel really old” you might have the following examples.

  • Will Smith is now older than Uncle Phil was at the beginning of Fresh Prince
  • Britney Spears’ hit song “Oops!…I Did It Again” is older than today’s high school sophmore class.
  • It has been six years since all Geocities websites have been deleted.
  • John Candy has been dead for 20 years. 

Attempt to target different audiences from music fans to technologists, to general pop culture followers. This ensures the best chance of keeping your audience engaged. Our research has shown that people want to read through familiar topics but they also love to discover new, interesting, and fun facts as they browse the web.

The Takeaway

A listicle for the purposes of content arbitrage should guide the reader on a journey of discovery. Just like any good movie or book you need to tease them with foreshadowing, cliffhangers, and a powerful story in general.