Book: Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator by Ryan Holiday

Trust Me, IRyan Holliday is very disillusioned by modern media. You could call it Karma, since he made his career as a marketing director for American Apparel – one of the biggest clothing brands in US.

He manipulated journalists to pick up his stories, created scandal to make the headlines and got away with it.
You can that this really made an impression on him. He has seen Gawker and the like destroy lifes of people just to get more pageviews or cynical journalists picking up anything that can be made into a news without any consederation if its true or not.
That book articulated what was brewing inside me for a long time. News has no relation to truth or the world. The sole purpose of a news article is usually just to drive traffic.
It’s pretty sad, but tr going on a low-information diet. You will know more about the world and you will worry less.

Amazon Link

Fake news

 I was reading this book in 2017 when the “Fake News” issue was made painfully visible. What was really surprising is that this book was published in 2012 and predicted all of that to the T. Even Ryan himself has published interesting article recently updating his ideas presented in the book ( ).

  • Blogs / online media are incentivized towards views / page loads. They have 0 incentive to tell the truth. They may be also incentivized towards maximising pageviews by the hopes of selling their blog in the future, in which case the want to demonstrate as much traffic as possible
  • All this caused by “One-Off” problem. Each article has to stand on its own in news aggregators as Google News / Facebook
    • In a subscription model, content creators can spend more time crafting quality content
    • Is it the part of the reason why media protests aggregators so much ?
    • Should we on wpcom fight this?
  • The fun part, its old “Yellow pages” all over again. This has happened in early 1900s when newspapers were advertised on street corners and titles that sellers screamed had to be enticing enough
    • Prominent headlines that screamed excitement about ultimately unimportant news
    • Lavish use of pictures (often of little relevance)
    • Impostors, frauds, and faked interviews
    • Color comics and a big, thick Sunday supplement
    • Ostentatious support for the underdog causes
    • Use of anonymous sources
    • Prominent coverage of high society
  • Some blogs are depending on what they call “Iterative Journalism” – publish first, fact-check and revise later. That way, even if the story is totally bogus and has 0 merit, they still can published multiple posts on this
    • They dont take down the old, scandalizing ones (which usually get more traffic)
    • Even if they correct this, there is psychological research proving that if you attach a note refuting the central claim, the readers are more likely to believe the refuted claim

How to cure “Fake news” ?

  • Subscription models managed to cure the same problem in the 50s in newspapers
  • We have to stop making headlines compete with each other
  • On the personal level, as always, I advocate low news diet. Learning and reading is good, however news give you the illusion of information and stress of cortisol shot. News = cookies.

How to manipulate media

  • You can feed them basically whatever as long as its packaged neatly
    • Controversy, Anger, Comment, Shock
    • Clickbait titles
    • Write headline and let them steal
    • CONTRIBUTE directly on blogs!
  • You can feed blogs at the bottom and the story will ultimately flow upstream
  • Easy fo feed them BS
    • Anonymous tips
    • Contriversy against your own stuff
  • You can feed blogs at the bottom and the story will ultimately flow upstream
  • Easy fo feed them BS
    • Anonymous tips
    • Contriversy against your own stuff
Ways to promote your work if you know how to manipulate the media. Ultimately, they care most about YOU sending THEM traffic.
  • Write guest column somewhere – this is quite effective
  • Get your ass on HARO where people search for experts
  • Pitch your story to smaller blogs and it will filter up, most sites are repackaging the old stuff
  • You don’t have to care about creating accurate content, you just have to provide clickbait
  • Tantalizing is sometimes all that is required

My Kindle Highlights

  • It’s bloggers informing bloggers informing bloggers all the way down.
  • 89 percent of journalists reported using blogs for their research for stories.
  • “frovocation”—a portmanteau of faux provocation. It works incredibly well.
  • The media, like any group of animals, gallops in a herd. It takes just one steer to start a stampede. The first level is your lead steer.
  • Prominent headlines that screamed excitement about ultimately unimportant news •  Lavish use of pictures (often of little relevance) • Impostors, frauds, and faked interviews •  Color comics and a big, thick Sunday supplement •  Ostentatious support for the underdog causes • Use of anonymous sources •  Prominent coverage of high society and
  • He came up with the phrase “All the News That’s Fit to Print”
  • Uncertainty can be acknowledged. Humanity can be allowed.
  • You want to know how to con bloggers today? Look at media hoaxes from before your grandparents were born. The same things will play. They may even play better now.
  • “People respond to and are deceived by the same things they were a hundred years ago.”
  • Basically, write the headline—or hint at the options—in your e-mail or press release or whatever you give to the blogger and let them steal
  • Once your story has gotten coverage, one of the best ways to turn yourself into a favorite and regular subject is to make it clear your story is a reliable traffic draw.
  • Stacking developed as an implicit standard, and that has had extraordinary implications. When content is stacked, it sets a very clear emphasis on the present.
  • The New York Times has such abnormal keenness of vision that it is occasionally able to see that which does not exist.
  • in the blogging market there is a profound shortage of investigative material or original reporting.
  • Welcome to the art of “thumbnail cheating.” It’s a common tactic YouTube publishers use to make their videos more tantalizing than the competition.
  • Demand’s automated editing systems pump out up to thirty thousand video clips and articles about trivial topics like baking cookies or “best of” lists.
  • But, after he has gotten through his dinner and after he has listened to his favored radio programs and after he has read his second newspaper of the day, it is really time for bed.
  • The news has always been riddled with errors, because it is self-referential instead of self-critical
  • Instead, the philosophy behind iterative journalism is like a lot of the examples of bad stories I have mentioned. The facts supporting the conclusions collapse under scrutiny, and only the hubris of a faulty conclusion remains.
  • Why are we cheering on our own deception?
  • It’s easier to co-opt readers with marketing bullshit than it is to protect their interests or provide worthwhile material.
  • Do you think PETA is upset when their proposed Super Bowl commercial is rejected every year? No, that’s the entire point. They get the attention—and they don’t have to pay for the ad space.
  • Snark offers an outlet for their frustration. Instead of channeling their energy toward productive means, snark dissipates it by throwing itself against anything powerful or successful.
  • Bloggers are disaffected and angry, and their medium enables it.
  • Roger Ebert calls snarking “cultural vandalism.”
  • It is clear to me that the online media cycle is not a process for developing truth but for performing a kind of cultural catharsis.
  • They grind with the “rage of the creative underclass,” as New York magazine called it.
  • The news, whether it’s found online or in print, is just the content that successfully navigated the media’s filters.
  • just contribute directly to Business Insider. You’ll
  • pseudo-events are anything planned deliberately to attract the attention of the media.
  • In 1922, Lippmann warned us “about the worldwide spectacle of men”—government officials, bankers, executives, artists, ordinary people, and even other reporters—“acting upon their environment moved by stimuli from their pseudo-environment.”
  • Welcome to unreality, my friends. It’s fucking scary.
  • The dominant cultural medium, Postman understood, determines culture itself.
  • Colonial newspapers at various points in British history were required to post a security bond in order to enter the publishing business.
  • You cannot have your news for free; you can only obscure the costs.


  1. vumcguinness says:

    I’m listening to the audio book right now, loving it. great post.

Leave a Reply