Trust Me, I’m Lying | Ryan Holiday

Summary of: Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator
By: Ryan Holiday


Prepare to venture into the world of contemporary media manipulation with Ryan Holiday’s provocative book ‘Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator.’ This summary explores the hidden workings of the blogosphere, revealing how page views, ad revenues, and manipulation of emotions drive the content we consume online. Delve into the phenomenon of iterative journalism, how our emotions are manipulated by blogs, the spread of misinformation, and the power of blogs in shaping society. As you navigate this insightful summary, you will encounter eye-opening examples from the past and present that demonstrate the power and influence of the media on our lives.

The Business of Blogging

All successful blogs aim to make money by primarily selling ad space. Large media companies buy blogs, especially those with high traffic, as they are like internet properties with valuable ad space. Successful blog owners often sell their blogs to larger news media companies to become multi-millionaires.

Faulty Iterative Journalism

The dark side of constant online news cycles exposed in favor of generating revenue, utilizing iterative journalism to publish first and fact-check later.

Online blogs are known for their constant news cycles, often producing multiple posts a day. This is because the more content a blog produces, the longer the reader typically stays, which increases ad impressions and revenue for the blog. Unlike traditional news media outlets, blogs have no restrictions on the amount of content they publish, leading to the rise of iterative journalism.

Iterative journalism is a practice where blogs publish articles based on even the slightest whiff of a story, without conducting any fact-checking. This phenomenon allows online bloggers to generate content rapidly but at the cost of publishing misinformation or lies.

An excellent example of iteration journalism occurred in 2008, when CNN’s citizen journalism website iReport reported that Steve Jobs, Apple’s founder, had died of a heart attack. Initially, all blogs ignored the rumor, except for Silicon Alley. Eager to generate unique content, they published the news as if it were factual.

In the second stage of iterative journalism, when an article turns out to be incorrect or founded on rumors, the blogger either changes the headline or adds a spin to the story to make it appear factual. In the Steve Jobs’ story, Silicon Alley rephrased the article by changing the opening sentence to “Citizen journalism fails its first test,” making it appear that their point had been all along.

Iterative journalism enables bloggers to produce content quickly, but it also fuels the dissemination of lies and misinformation. The constant need for new content puts pressure on blogs to publish news rapidly, even without conducting proper research to confirm the truth.

The Pitfalls of Iterative Journalism

The more content a blog produces, the longer readers stay on their site, generating more ads and revenue. Therefore, blogs practice iterative journalism. In the first stage, articles are published even without fact-checking. In the second stage, errors are backtracked. A prime example is when Silicon Alley published a fake news about Steve Jobs’ death to keep their readers engaged. However, when proven wrong, they twisted the headline to shift the blame. While this style helps them to churn out material quickly, it can also lead to misinformation as articles are published without proper verification.

How Blogs Manipulate Your Emotions

Blogs utilize emotions like anger, fear, laughter, and excitement to increase reader engagement and generate ad revenue. Researchers found that articles that stoke anger generate the biggest reaction and get more page views than those that inspire positivity. Sadness, on the other hand, does not result in viral sharing due to its low-arousal nature. This study and others help blogs understand what content will bait readers and increase their profits.

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