I just finished Ryan Holiday’s Trust Me, I’m Lying, and have lost my faith in the news.

Sorry… no photos of Kate Middleton here, nude or otherwise.

The title is created in the spirit of Trust Me, I’m Lying, which is about the way we are tricked into clicking links to stories with little or no fact checking.

I don’t read a lot of non-fiction these days, but the premise of Trust Me, I’m Lying tickled my curiosity. Mr. Holiday claims to know how to manipulate the media into printing what he wants, from small bloggers all the way up to major news sites like CNN. Ryan maintains that blogs are created solely to draw in traffic and then sell advertising based on that traffic. So they ditch fact-checking and decency to put out stories that are sensational, and so likely to get clicks.

The book is good, and delivers on that promise. He has numerous examples of how the media is manipulated and very nearly serves up a how-to manual for readers to do this themselves. He cites examples where he himself got attention for his clients projects through deceptions and planted stories and counting on the media not doing any fact checking.

And even when the sites he most strongly condemns did check the facts afterwards, realizing that they got the story wrong, they either flip the story to something even more sensational, or add a little to the bottom of the article without changing the headline.


The headline for this review is put up in the spirit of the book. Misleading, but guaranteed to get me a few clicks (especially now that I have included them again in the text, upping the SEO value). My favorite example of media misuse from the book is the way Ryan Holiday got coverage of the movie I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell. He did this by buying billboard space and putting up a poster for the movie. He then defaced the billboard himself, writing “Tucker Max sucks cock.” and sending photos to bloggers who might cover it. He then sent emails to larger media, linking to the blogs reporting the billboard de-facing. Sure enough, the billboard made headlines, along with the movie.

Ruined Forever

“Leaked” photos and documents, reported rumors and “Exclusive” stories have now been permanently ruined for me. Although I always suspected that allegedly leaked photos of upcoming movies and gadgetswere planted (iPhone5, anyone) the sheer scope surprises me. Again, the last months of crazy (to the point of insulting people’s intelligence) coverage of the upcoming iPhone shows this perfectly.

There are also some great examples of how Wikipedia is misused and cited for “facts” that only exist on Wikipedia. Even newsites we generally trust well, like the Guardian, have fallen for this.

The book is very good to start with but then gets a little long winded in the later half, where Mr. Holiday says that modern media should know better, should improve. And then he says it again in the next chapter and the next. Overall though, I recommend this book to anyone with an interest in online marketing, journalism or blogging. Both to know how to see through the bullshit, and also to know how to get the media to cover the stories you want them to cover.

Worth getting for Mr. Holidays examples of the misuse of the media alone. 3-and-a-half stars. Buy it here.



  1. Excellent review! I learned of this completely by accident, and not so much in terms of a wider misuse of media, but, anyway, one day I wrote a post about airport security and thinking I was being clever, I titled the post “Getting naked in public.” I had just been flying a lot and was complaining about having to take so much cloths off in a public venue and the title seemed apt to me. Boy did my blog stats explode after that for that one post (and only that post). Imagine all those folks looking for nude folks in public being sorely disappointed when they landed on my lame post. Ah, well. But it did teach me exactly about what Mr. Holiday employs in his marketing schemes. Sensationalize it, and they will come.

    (Also, by the way, I know you would want me to tell you because you’re a writer like me… :o
    Typo: “…with little *ro* no fact checking.”)


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