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23 Reasons Why I Still Believe Ryan Holiday’s lies


I was sitting by the pool with Ryan Holiday’s book in front of me. I was impersonating the interesting and mysterious guy who is reading an interesting book just because the cover has a contrasted title. Next to me was a couple of young adults, that were on Facebook, reading and looking at ridiculous videos.

You know, the ones with puppies fooling around or some sort of kitchen hacks.

While I was reading Ryan’s book I was looking at them and then I realized one thing: the whole topic of the book I was reading was related to me and them. But what did we have in common?

The content.

There is content everywhere. There is a certain type of content on Facebook, a certain type of content on Instagram, a certain type of content on our favorite online magazines and blogs.

The dirty little secret is that I’m on the creation part while they (the group) are on the consuming part. And we need each other.

So, after I read Ryan’s book about the confessions of a media manipulator I extracted a few quotes that got my attention and I wanted to write them down here, for me and of course, for you.

These are the quotes that I outlined in this book, so I can personalize it and never ever borrow it to anybody. This is my personal strategy when someone asks me to borrow my books – “Sorry man, I just can’t! Because I wrote down my ideas, I outlined a few things and also created some ultra secret future projects that I will sell to the government for billions of dollars (yeah right!)”

A lot has changed since 2013, when Ryan wrote “Trust me I’m lying” but there are still a few valid ideas that you need to read. Gawker was shut down. Ryan wrote a few other great books (Btw, check out his latest book called “The Perennial Seller” in which he is talking about the projects, books, movies and music that lasts even today, after years and years) such as Ego is the Enemy, The Obstacle is the Way or Growth Hacker Marketing.

When Ryan refers in his TMIL book about bloggers and publishers he is talking about the top websites like Gawker, Jezebel, Washington Post, Techcrunch, New York Times and other big media companies.

So, if you want to read Ryan’s book, just check out these quotes and after that, go and buy it.

It’s a must read if you work in any industry related to media (or even if you just want to know how easy it is to control it)

1. Every decision a publisher makes is ruled by one dictum: traffic by any means

And not only by publishers but also by every company who has a blog or a website. Most of all are interested in traffic because that’s the thing (or at least that’s what people think) that will get them more views, more users, more subscribers. But the real deal is what do you do with all that traffic? What do you do with all those users who are consuming your content?

2. Media was once about protecting a name; on the web it is about building one

The internet is a great tool to build a name, but up to a certain point. You can’t rely only on the internet, as much as you can’t rely only on social media to build a brand or only on SEO to grow a website. Every marketing element (SEO, SEM, Social, Paid Ads, PR, Content, Brand awareness) must depend on a strategy that has a real purpose.

3. Whose interest a blogger share? A reader (traffic), own (personal brand), brands (revenue)

These are the 3 main elements every blogger should look up on. We often talk about audience, web traffic, revenue, influencer marketing and other checkpoints. But in fact, everything is related to these elements that together are the main reason why a blogger does what he or she does.

Traffic -> Personal Brand (influence) -> Revenue

4. If you invest early in a blogger, you can buy your influence very cheaply

I once heard Noah Kagan talking about why to do paid marketing on untapped channels. That means that if you see a new network/platform in which you can do advertising jump on it. Advertise and promote your business before everybody will be there and it will be too late or mainstream (or will cost you more).

5. Brian Moylan (Gawker) “get the whole story into the headline but leave out just enough that people will want to click”

The importance of the headline  is something many content marketers don’t understand. It’s not only about SEO and other tactics they think are important to trick the user into clicking on something. It’s having an interesting story to put in a headline but not saying the ‘punchline’ of an idea, but instead finding it in the article.

6. Nobody is fooling anyone…because sites don’t have any interest in what they post, as long as it delivers pageview

Is this the internet today? Are these top web publishers like TechCrunch, Business Insider, The Verge and others are playing for? Do they care only about pageviews? Unfortunately I don’t know the answer, but I know one simple thing: no business grow and made a lot of money only because these publishers talked/wrote about them.

7. The best way to get traffic is to publish as much as possible, as quick as possible, and as simply as possible

If you are in the news industry, you’re a lucky one But what if you are a B2B company who is struggling with its blog strategy or has just launched a content project? Well, my recommendation is to go for the long-form articles but you shouldn’t ignore this quote – make the article as simple as possible so everybody can understand your ideas.

8. The pressure to keep content visually appealing and ready for impulse readers is a constant suppressant on length, regardless of what it cut to make it happen

Content is king, right? But how big is your king? How good looking is your king? How fit is your king? How fat is your king? How many wars did your king win? How big is your king’s army? Think about these question the next time you hear the quote “Content is king”.

9. The format is the problem

I know that Holiday put this quote in a different context in his book, but that reminds me about how many people stop at the format when they want to deliver a message or create a piece of content. Should I launch my own blog or should I use Medium? Should I use Facebook videos or should I use YouTube videos? Should I post stories on Snapchat or should I use Instagram Stories? The format is the most minimal problem today in content marketing. The most important problem is content. Focus on the message!

10. Being caught as a manipulator can only help make you more famous

I outlined this quote because it’s something that made Ryan what he is today, and I’m not saying that he is famous or something like this. What I really like about this quote is that he is transparent, or at least this is what we can see.

11. The best way to make your critics work for you is to make them irrationally angry

For some of you, this is the solution for the ones you are calling haters.

12. From this attention comes fame and profit –  a platform for best selling books, lucrative speaking and consulting gigs…

Attention is a topic that many content marketers are struggling to get to. The attention of the industry. The attention of the user. The attention of the competition. But with “attention” comes not only the fame and profit but also the responsibility to maintain your position. Somebody once said that the worst thing that can happen to the ones who are in the first place is to get in the second place.

13. Everything you consume online has been “optimized” to make you depend on it

Just think about what the Facebook guys do with the content that they are “optimizing” for your newsfeed. You might think about taking a 5 minute break from work and get some well deserved time-off while scrolling on Facebook. But here is the fact: from 5 minutes you’ll find yourself scrolling 10-15-25 minutes. Why? Because the content you see is optimized for your own interests. And that keeps you hooked!

14. A story is made of facts, and it is the concrescence of those facts that creates a news story

This is something that brands should think about. When you want to share a story about your brand, but you don’t have any real and important facts for the industry and your audience, well, don’t be surprised if you don’t get any attention. Any story without a fact is only another story on the internet.

15. “Making a point is exciting; correcting one is not

For all the haters out there 🙂

16. Speaking out only validates the original story – however incorrect it is – while staying silent and leaving the story as it was written means that the news isn’t actually iterative

17. Online publishers need to fill space. Companies need coverage of their products. Together blogs, marketers and publicists cannot help but conspire to meet one another’s needs and dress up the artificial and unreal as important. Why? Because that’s how they get paid.”

It’s all about money. Brands need blogs, marketers need publishers, publishers need these companies to pay them so they can pay their employees. But the real deal is how  we manage working in an industry in which we not only help each other, but we also create a future legacy for the ones who are struggling to come after us. This is what we need to think about right now.

18. All that matters is that people are talking about it

If you are in the PR industry, that’s the thing you are interested in, right? You want people to talk about your story, to share your article, to talk about the brand you are representing or working for. And people are talking about it if they find it attractive, or outrageous or in trend.

19. Internet culture has done one thing with this trust: utterly abused it

And this is one of the most important lessons you must learn if you’re working  in the digital marketing industry. Making people trust your brand and your content is what helps you succeed.

20. The central question for the internet is not, Is it entertaining? But, Will this get attention? Will it spread?

Why do you think that I wrote this article? Maybe I will get Ryan’s attention, he will share it on his social media or write me an e-mail in which he’ll say a simple thank you. Yes, marketers are interested in attention. Advertisers are interested in attention. Publishers, content creators are interested in attention. Influencers are interested in attention. All the content creators are interested in attention. How do you get that attention and what you do with it, are the real questions.

21…your profession’s true purpose is to serve the best interests of your readers – doing anything else is to misread your own long-term interests. Advertisers pay you to get to readers, so screwing the readers is a bad idea

I’m always saying and repeating this, think about your audience first. If you are launching a new feature for your online product that only 10% of your customers asked for, then make sure that you will personally contact all of those customers and let them know about your new release.

22 .Think about your audience” is more important then “think about your brand”

Every time I read/hear  this quote I remember the brands that put their customers before their names. If you need to get only one simple quote from this book, this is the one you need to write down, stick it on your desk and never forget it. Everything you do is for your audience first, then for your brand.

23. The information that finds us online – what spreads – is the worst kind


These are the 23 reasons and quotes that I outlined in the “Trust me, I’m lying” book written by Ryan Holiday.

And if these got your attention, I recommend you to check his others book too.


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Robert Katai

Content Marketing Strategist

"Content isn’t king. Usefulness is. Robert does this in the online marketing and social media space with ease."

Ram Castillo

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