1. Fear of Pain
A countdown of five creates an intimidating sense of urgency that can be traced in American culture to "A Charlie Brown Christmas," a 1965 animated television special based on the comic strip Peanuts, by Charles M. Schulz. The global popularity of this Peabody and Emmy award-winning animated TV special has firmly entrenched "five" as a list number that attracts the attention of our inner Linus – and it has been proven to make us pay attention.
2. Research Confirms It
Google invested more than $30 million to confirm what we all pretty much knew. If it comes in a five, it can make a lot of fast impact on culture. From the Osmonds and Jackson Five to New Edition and New Kids On the Block to NSYNC and Backstreet Boys, content providers have taken the lessons of opportunistic music producers in mingling together five random things only to see the ROI go through the roof.
Want proof? Here are the Mills Brothers, whose 1931 recording "Hold That Tiger" was a #1 hit and it would still be on the charts today if it weren't for the fact that there were only four members of the band. Listen.>
3. Because It's a High FIVE!
It's so good you don't even need another person. Content best practices change continually. As the parameters of media consumers' attention spans further shrink, to make your five-point listicle even more effective, make it brief. Three is not only the new five, but three is a top contender for this year's Person of the Year at Time magazine.
Mark Morelli is a New York Times Bestseller reader.