Book Review: Ryan Holiday’s Tell-All on Manipulating the Media


We caught up with Ryan Holiday a few months ago for an interview on the New Orleans startup scene. This month Silicon Bayou News was given a sneak peak of his new book “Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator.” The book is already gaining serious buzz from TechCrunch to the New York Post, and the book’s trailer has already racked up 80,000 views in just a few weeks. Read on for our full review.

For those not familiar, Ryan Holiday is a media strategist for notorious clients such as Tucker Max and Dov Charney. After dropping out of college at 19 to apprentice under Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power, he went on to advise many bestselling authors and multiplatinum musicians. He is currently the director of marketing at American Apparel. His campaigns have been used as case studies by Twitter, YouTube, and Google and written about in AdAge, the New York Times, Gawker and Fast Company.

The following is from the book’s Amazon page.

You’ve seen it all before. A malicious online rumor costs a company millions. A political sideshow derails the national news cycle and destroys a candidate. Some product or celebrity zooms from total obscurity to viral sensation. What you don’t know is that someone is responsible for all this. Usually, someone like me.
I’m a media manipulator. In a world where blogs control and distort the news, my job is to control blogs—as much as any one person can.
In today’s culture…

  1. Blogs like Gawker, Buzzfeed and the Huffington Post drive the media agenda.
  2. Bloggers are slaves to money, technology, and deadlines.
  3. Manipulators wield these levers to shape everything you read, see and watch—online and off.

Why am I giving away these secrets? Because I’m tired of a world where blogs take indirect bribes, marketers help write the news, reckless journalists spread lies, and no one is accountable for any of it. I’m pulling back the curtain because I don’t want anyone else to get blindsided.

I’m going to explain exactly how the media really works. What you choose to do with this information is up to you.

So does Holiday live up to his own ad copy? In a word, yes. He writes a tight narrative and manages to keep the story quick and interesting while weaving in considerable detail. The book pulls no punches as he recalls past exploits and shows you the reader how he went about his work for years. It will no doubt ruffle feathers inside the media, especially large blogs and newspapers. Holiday lays out step by step how he learned to con journalists by feeding them salacious stories, which they gladly broadcast to the world out of their own self interest.

But far from being a smear campaign, Holiday’s story describes the economics of digital media from revenue to the what the bloggers themselves earn. He also provides a brief history of entertainment-media, through the boom-&-bust cycles leading right up to the wild west journalism on the web today. And he shows how these changes affect the news and eventually public perception along the way.

By the end Holiday is not pointing fingers and calling names as much as describing a vastly screwed up system that misleads the public. And we’re not talking about a left slant here or a conservative bias there. Blogs and media entities everywhere are chasing viewers and pushing out stories with so few facts and enough mistakes to….well…..make even an ad-man blush.

The book could be described as part how to, part juicy gossip, and part historical reference point. From American Apparel, to Brett Farve, and the war in Afghanistan, Ryan breaks down some of the biggest stories of the last few years.

You’ll look at your own news feed and headlines everywhere in a whole new light when you see the real politics behind the system. If you or your company hopes to get in the press, or if you just read news on the web, this book is a must read. For those interested, find it on Amazon here.