Book Review: Trust Me I’m Lying – How to manipulate the news

TRUST ME I’M LYING left me humbled. I thought I was on top of my media game and was able to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. I was wrong.

I knew the situation was bad, I even quit following “the news” 3 years ago because I thought it misrepresented reality to a larger degree than it represented it (and for the sake of my own my wellbeing), but Ryan Holidays confessions from his career as a media manipulator paints a darker picture than I could ever imagine.

Video Review of Trust Me I’m Lying by Ryan Holiday

Notes & Highlights

📝 The constraints of blogging create artificial content (shamings, planted stories, sensational speculations etc..), which is made real and impacts the outcome of real world events.

📝 Trading up the chain: How to turn nothing into something! Send stories to small traffic hungry blogs with non-existing editorial standards and have them being picked up by bigger and bigger outlets until your fabricated story is national news.

📝 “The world is boring, but the news is exciting. It’s a paradox of modern life.”

📝 Top stories always polarize people. Threaten peoples belonging, belief or behavior and you will have a hit that will spreads!

📝 The economics of the web has made it impossible to portray the complex situation of Detroit accurately. Photographs of abandoned houses was shared like crazy while photos of the same houses with it’s despairing residents included was “too sad to share”, creating less incentive for media. Simple narratives > complex realities.

📝 On User Engagement: Provoke a person enough for them to be motivated to leave a comment. In the process of registering to be eligible to comment, a user has to go through up to 10 pageviews. That’s a lot of ads (and ad revenue!).


Sensational and fear-mongering headlines has always made me sad. Understanding the structure and constraints of click-based media is essential. These structure explains almost everything they do. It’s the nature of the system.

“The medium is the message” is an expression coined by Marshall McLuhan and sums up well my takeaway from this book. It points towards the fact that forms and methods (Instagram, Blogs, TV etc..) used to communicate information have a nontrivial impact on the kind of messages being delivered. Or as Ryan Holiday puts it “each generation of media has a different c**k in it’s mouth.”

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ out of 5

Further reading:

If you enjoyed Trust Me I’m Lying by Ryan Holiday then you might also like these books:

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed – Jon Ronson

Find more great reads on my book reviews page and the Great Books List
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