Trust Me I'm Lying is an eye-opening book about how the modern media operates, the economics that drive it and how the system can be manipulated. Author Ryan Holiday details how he himself manipulated the media, by bribing bloggers, writing their stories, pretending to be other people and defacing his own advertisements to get the media writing the stories he wanted.
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- BOOK SUMMARY
- PART ONE: THE TACTICS
- PART TWO: THE CONSEQUENCES
Who is this summary for?
This book is ideal for anyone working in or wanting to get involved in the marketing and media world. Trust Me I'm Lying is an eye-opening book about how the modern media operates, the economics that drives it and how the system can be manipulated. Author Ryan Holiday details how he himself manipulated the media, by bribing bloggers, writing their stories, pretending to be other people and defacing his own advertisements to get the media writing the stories he wanted.
Ryan Holiday considers himself a writer and a media strategist. With 6 books under his belt and an extremely successful blog, Ryan has covered a lot of topics surrounding personal and business development. He has a passion for philosophy & stoicism as well as marketing, business, success, growth, marketing, self-awareness, and learning. Author or multiple successful books including The Obstacle is the Way, Ego is the Enemy and Growth Hacker Marketing. Ryan studied under Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power and credits a lot of his success and strategies to Greene.
In this summary
Ryan has broken up his book into two sections, the first section explains some of the key tactics that Ryan used for deceiving people to write only what he wants when promoting his own brands. We’ll briefly summarise the 9 tips ranging from writing killer headlines to sharing socially. The second section is the needed alternative component to the first section, where Ryan shares some of the consequences that can occur when actions from his first section are taken. Make sure you read both sections to get the whole picture!
A MEDIA MONSTER
Ryan describes modern media as a “monster” that is striking fear into the public domain, spreading lies and creating controversy all in the name of generating page views and income. Media manipulators like Ryan are able to feed the monster and control the content it produces.
Ryan explains that the whole economy has shifted since modern day media has taken over the online world. Money simply isn’t made in the same way anymore. Now you can generate income based on how many people visit your page or individual impressions. Bloggers are under a huge amount of pressure to create as much content as possible, bringing more and more people to the pages and therefore generating income. Ryan explains that on the flip side, the pressure to create often results in lower quality content, there’s no passion or thought going into each post, the motivation is all about page views. Controversial titles, leaking confidential documentation or just straight up lying are just a few of the tactics used. Advertisers hold the power to manipulate smaller blogs and influence what is published, getting their name out there in the way they want.
PART ONE: THE TACTICS
In this section of the book, Ryan outlines the tactics he has used for deceiving bloggers and publishers to get them to write what he wants and promote his brands. Warning: these techniques are not necessarily encouraged, but Ryan illustrates what he has found to be most successful when it comes to manipulating the media.
Help pay bloggers bills.
When a blog is starting, there’s no steady flow of page views, this becomes their goal. Any profit they are going to make is going to come from these impressions. All bloggers want to do is to increase their audience and be able to reach larger publishers. Help them out in the early stages, they will be appreciative of any freebies and advice. Ryan explains that by being there in the early stages they will remember your generosity, and this may just work in your favour when they’ve taken off and have an influential voice.
Tell bloggers exactly what they want to hear
Something bloggers are renowned for is their lack of attention to the facts. They often hear a snippet of information and the race is on to publish content. Bloggers are short on time and therefore source checking and fact verification often is ignored. Ryan explains that you can use this to your advantage, if you want them to publish something in your favour, simply tell them the information they want to hear. Ryan suggests acting like an expert or offering up a document that can be leaked will excite a blogger and they are likely to hit publish before they follow up on any credibility.
Ryan’s rule of thumb is that if something is not worthwhile of social sharing, there is little point in publishing. If people aren’t going to feel passionate about your content enough to share it on their Facebook page or talk about it on public media then there is little point. Ryan emphasises the importance of sharing content that can evoke strong emotions such as anger and passion, and more often than not being controversial is key.
Tricking their readers is key
We’ve all heard the term clickbait before, Ryan explains that bloggers use clickbait to get page views and generate more income. Clickbait is essentially using an enticing article headline (that is usually extremely misleading) to trick their readers into following the link and reading their post. Ryan explains that in these cases, the readers often reach the page only to find out it’s not quite what they expected and then they’ll likely leave slightly disappointed. However, their visit to the page is enough to generate the income the bloggers need.
Ryan recommends you treat bloggers the same way they treat their readers. Give them a sense of mystery and they’ll be more enticed to listen to what you have to say.
”Approach bloggers with these same questions and the same sense of mystery and watch as they do the same to their readers.”
Sell so they can then sell
Even since the beginning of online media, the rules have changed. Bloggers used to be looking for loyal readership and they aimed to always be authentic and true to their followers. However, these days, blogs don’t rely heavily on a subscription model and RSS is becoming less and less common. Every individual blog is essentially fighting for the same attention in the same place and is willing to do whatever they can to reach the readers.
”Give them the ammunition to do this: sensationalism, extremism, sex, scandal, and hatred.”
First impressions are everything, we know this. And Ryan explains that headlines are blogs version of a first impression. The goal with any headline is to encourage as many clicks as possible. Help bloggers nail the headlines and you can guarantee traffic to your content. It’s not worth publishing information that doesn’t translate into an effective and clickable headline.
Page views are king
Again, Ryan emphasises the pressure on bloggers to produce as much content as possible every single day, this often means more than one post per day. And understandably, this gets hard. When a blog posts your story, share it on your own personal and business social media sites to boost the traffic. By doing this, the bloggers will see the stats, realise your story was popular and are more likely to write about you again. Ryan mentions that there are ways to essentially buy fake traffic and send it to the post.
”The more traffic you can send to the article, the more articles the blogger may write about you later.”
Ryan explains that the frequency in which blog posts are published doesn’t translate well to long, detailed posts. Bloggers don’t have the time to go into detail nor write lengthy posts. The articles they produce are usually short snippets. Therefore, Ryan explains you can use this to your advantage. If you were looking for some promotion for a book, publishing an entire chapter on a blog would never work. The best way to get the book out there would be to produce little chunks and segments of the book in as many posts as possible. This way not only to the bloggers have an easier job but the readers only have to digest small snippets of information and you’ll leave them wanting more!
Fake it when necessary
Ryan explains that bloggers are constantly trying to find the most interesting ‘angle’ on any post, the angle is what helps encourage more sharing online and obviously more traffic and page views. If you can help them find this angle by making up stuff and elaborating the truth then go for it. Taking something small and exaggerating it is essential in story-telling online. Ryan says, don’t worry, everyone else is doing it so you might as well too.
PART TWO: THE CONSEQUENCES
In the second half of the book, Ryan outlines the consequences of the actions described above and why how no longer uses these tactics. The objective of his book is to expose the truth about how modern media works and the consequences of the system.
You’re not the only manipulator out there
Ryan realised that he was manipulating the media with the actions discussed in the first part of this summary, but he was slightly shocked to realise he wasn’t alone. There were loads of others doing the exact same thing. He explains that when looking at the manipulation from the perspective of someone not involved in the deal, he uncovered the true effects on peoples lives. It was a sobering realisation that peoples lives were being trashed, their words twisted, companies secrets revealed and there were real-life unfortunate circumstances. And all of this was done in vain, so the bloggers could get more views and one company comes out looking better off.
Bloggers have tactics too
Once he became more involved in the blogging world Ryan started to pick up on bloggers tactics. Their aim is obviously to keep people on their websites and pages as long as possible and they have a few sneaky tricks. For example, they will insert images of attractive women on their YouTube thumbnails just to get the clicks.
Ryan tells a story of being at a large conference and witnessing a famous blogger ignoring the speaker and all other attendees, they were simply glued to their phone on Facebook, Twitter and replying to blog comments. Ryan realised just what an impact this life can have and vowed to not end up like this.
As mentioned previously, in the early days, blogs pay little attention to checking and linking to sources. They rely heavily on taking small snippets of information or stories and escalating it into a big deal. Ryan explains that when this approach reaches large media and news sites, you’ll find that news is reported before the facts are checked. The assumption is always that the news is real. He explains that this is why things can blow up online quickly and become further and further from the truth.
'Nowadays, we don’t need PR worker to create the news, they’re they to mitigate it and stop the spread of bad press.”Click To Tweet
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Publish first, check the facts later
Ryan explains that due to the tendency to prioritise publishing over fact-checking. He spends a lot of his time correcting false stories and avoiding trouble. This takes up more of his time than creating new stories does.
”Iterative journalism relies on rumours, buzz and questions. Bloggers publish now and wait to be corrected later (iterations). Sites will publish rumours straight away while they see if there’s any more to the story.”
Ryan explains that in some instances, bloggers get lucky. The story they initially published is correct and there are no issues. But even if the news they reported wasn’t accurate, they’ll extort that fact and go on to publish more stories about the way people reacted to the incorrect news. It’s an ongoing cycle.
Yes, a blog can be edited after it’s been published and amendments can be made. However, bloggers refuse to accept that they were wrong. They are unlikely to admit to errors in their articles and are not likely to make corrections just because you ask. Ryan explains the frustrations he faces when trying to correct false information, he’s often met with dismissal and avoidance.
Mocking is dangerous
A tactic a lot of bloggers use to get page views is humour. More specifically humour in the context of mocking or making fun of people and businesses. Their aim is to entertain the readers and drive the traffic to their page. But bloggers often don’t realise the negative effect this can have on people and businesses.
Moving our lives online has resulted in a whole range of online bullying. Ryan brings attention to attack blogs, smear campaigns, anonymous tips, trolls, nasty comments and blog wars. Anthropologists call these acts degradation ceremonies with the purpose of selecting an individual to ridicule, shame and effect their social status. The results of this are overwhelmingly negative, peoples lives are dramatically effected by what is said abut them online.
Is this even the real world?
Ryan questions the reality of what we see online:
”This book has illustrated how blogs speculate, rush, exaggerate, distort and mislead in order to grab attention. What happens when this material becomes the basis for tomorrows news? When CNN uses Gawker's stories? The result of millions of blogs fighting to be heard creates an unreality. A netherworld between the fake and the real where each builds on the other and they cannot be told apart.”
Ryan leaves us with a couple of tips to keep in mind when reading blogs:
- The words “leaked” or “official documents” are probably false. It’s very unlikely that you will get to see these kinds of documents online.
- The term “breaking” in relation to news means that it’s been published immediately after hearing even the tiniest snippet of news. ‘Breaking news' is based more on speculation than fact.
- When an article has the term; “we’ll have more news on this soon” what they really mean is that they are sitting back and waiting for more info. They aren’t actually doing any fact verification nor checking their sources.
- Due to the pressure bloggers are under to create as much content as possible. You are in a position to take advantage of this and get them to publish exactly what you want. You can absolutely use this to your advantage.
- Remember to take everything published online with a grain of salt. Ryan has explained exactly how the media can be manipulated and how fact checking and source verification is not a priority.
- It’s important to understand that everything said and published online can have lasting effects and often negative consequences.
- Headlines are designed to get you to follow the link and view a page, headlines are likely going to be misleading and are often out to trick you.
Other reads by Ryan Holiday include Ego is the Enemy – a very complimentary continuation on from The Obstacle is the Way that focuses on how when on the road to success, we mustn't let our ego's become a controlling factor in the way we act and make decisions. Also by Ryan, Growth Hacker Marketing is a great explanation about how exponential growth as seen from the likes of Dropbox, Instagram and Facebook is not down to luck and it hasn't come from traditional forms of marketing. Their rapid growth has been engineered from the beginning and despite being late entrants into their markets, these companies have succeeded using new age marketing techniques.
Robert Greene was one of the most influential people in Ryan Holiday’s life and his book The 48 Laws of Power outlines key steps to understanding how to use and enforce your power.
Other great reads are The Thank-You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuck – an insight into the changing platform of marketing where Vaynerchuck emphasises the importance of social media in any business venture. And Inspired by Marty Cagan which details the process of creating a product, whether that be internet based or physical.
Guidelines is my eBook that summarises the main lessons from 33 of the best-selling self-help books in one place. It is the ultimate book summary; Available as a 80-page ebook and 115-minute audio book. Guidelines lists 31 rules (or guidelines) that you should follow to improve your productivity, become a better leader, do better in business, improve your health, succeed in life and become a happier person.
- When your reading articles online, try to remember the advice that Ryan has offered. Remember that fact checking is not a priority, and sometimes you could be reading completely fake information.
- Also, try to take notice of tactics used online to keep you on a page or get you to click through to other pages. This is a money making tactic and designed to trick you.
- Remember that page views = income for bloggers.
- Check out Ryan’s comprehensive reading list for ideas of new books to read.
- Download the complete book on Amazon.
This summary is not intended as a replacement for the original book and all quotes are credited to the above-mentioned author and publisher.