Buzzfeed is full of numbered lists with sensational headlines. Have you ever wondered what number results in the most viewed articles? We certainly have. We asked our coworkers what number they would be most likely to click on and the answer was pretty much unanimous. It amounted to “Any number as long as there are cute baby animals.”
This answer didn’t satisfy us very much, so we decided to look at the data. Fortunately, there’s a view count on the bottom of every Buzzfeed article, so anyone with a little time and curiosity could do it.
First test – Frequency distribution
We compiled a list of posts, their view count, and the date it was posted. The search we used to compile the list was:
site:buzzfeed.com “top 3″ OR “3 of the” OR “3 best”
We grabbed the first page of results on Google for each number from 3 to 35, then sorted them by most views per post. We then selected the top 100 posts and did a quick frequency distribution analysis. 25 appeared to be the best number, but only by one or two posts.
This didn’t give us the confidence we had hoped for, but a picture was starting to emerge. We noticed that once you got up into the large number of views, there were no posts with a number under 10 in the title. With confidence, we could say that the posts with the most views were clustered around 25, ranging from 21 to 27. We could also say that numbered lists ending in 5 or 0 garnered more views than other numbers.
Love exploring the world with data?
So do we. Our data journalism has been cited by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Fast Company. Sign up to receive regular updates from The Data Point.
Second Test – Changing the search parameters
We went back to Buzzfeed and noticed that the posts that ranked on the first page of Google search weren’t the posts with the most views of all time. The most viewed posts had titles outside of our search parameters, for example, “21 Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity.” Our second test involved searching “most viewed on Buzzfeed” and compiling a frequency distribution chart based on the results.
The search resulted in this list:
Looking at the most viewed posts, three had the number 25 in the title! While this gave us more confidence in the number 25, we noticed that each one of the three posts had views under 7 million, for a total under 21 million. The number 21 in the title had two posts over 10 million views, (including the most viewed of all time) for a total number of views of close to 25 million. This gave us the idea for our third test. What number in a blog post title has the highest average number of views?
Third Test – Comparing the average views for each number
Looking at the total views by number in the post title gave us an idea for a third test. We wondered if there was a reliable number for more views, regardless of whether it went viral or not. We took the ten posts we collected for each number in the post title and then found the average number of views.
Based on this data, the average post with 25 in the title far outperformed every other number.
At this point, we feel confident about the number 25 being the top performer in “best of” lists. While we can’t guarantee a million views each time you include 25 in the title, we can say that it consistently performs better than any other number.
Bonus: Top 25 things we learned from looking at all those Buzzfeed posts
Just kidding, there are only four takeaways. We noticed a few common themes among viral posts on Buzzfeed, regardless of the number in the title:
- Three Buzzfeed contributors had the highest number of viral posts and those three dominated the top ten most viewed of all time list. These three contributors have 2000, 2500 and 6500 posts attributed to them. It’s fair to say they aren’t hitting it out of the park with every post they publish.
- Time doesn’t matter when it comes to looking at total views count. Older posts that don’t “go viral” never reach the same level of views as new posts that do.
- The most viewed posts didn’t involve cute baby animal. The list titles incite emotion with titles that include words like, “most powerful” and “restore your faith in humanity.”
- The Buzzfeed stats page includes views from social and it is clear that Facebook is the content amplifier of choice. Circling back to the top three contributors, their viral posts all have over 50% of their views from Facebook. Each of the contributors have a relatively modest amount of followers, but those followers provide the starting block for content getting up to viral speed.