Interview with Ryan Holiday- Media Manipulator

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We recently interviewed Ryan Holiday, Media Strategist and Best Selling Author of Trust Me I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator. Ryan’s known for his controversial work as a Media Strategist for Tucker Max, Robert Greene, and American Apparel. He’s made a healthy career out of manipulating media to the advantage of his clients and the companies he’s worked for.

This interview is a bit different than the usual, but Ryan gives us some great insight on media strategy and how startups should be aware of the tactics he details in his new book. If you’re wondering how to get your company in the news, how to get PR for free, or make great use of a small marketing budget, definitely give it a read.

Elements from this interview with Ryan appear in the book Accelerate, which launches August 11th! Accelerate is the first comprehensive guide to the fast-paced world of accelerator programs featuring 230 accelerator programs spread across 46 different countries. Included in this book are responses from over 150 entrepreneurs whose businesses have benefited from participating in an accelerator.


You‘ve mentioned in other interviews and in your book that we are living in an attention economy and that “doing good stuff isn’t enough.” What does this mean to entrepreneurs? Are their value propositions just not enough anymore?

It means that you can’t expect your product to get an audience just because. If you build it, they will NOT come. You have to make them come. And the only way to do that is to be adept at marketing, packaging and psychology. It’s not that the value proposition has changed it’s that the competition has gotten infinite while people’s attention spans have stayed the same. To get your share of it you have to win the fight.

If you were the Director of Marketing for a startup, where would you start? What’s “first things first”?

You start online and you start with the people who influence other people. Think of it as a force multiplier. You can put all your energy on getting a tiny article in the USA Today that might bring you a few hundred users. Or you can start small with a blog that is read heavily by other blogs and watch as one mention turns into dozens–and thus thousands or hundreds of thousands of users.

What value can startup founders find from your book?

A playbook for how the media truly works. If you don’t know the game, you’re going to get crushed by the pros.

You‘ve given many examples of media being manipulated by big companies, and by yourself. Have you observed any startups or smaller-sized companies using these methods recently?

Sure. Why do you think everyone competes to be on Hacker News or TechCrunch? Those sites are read by a FRACTION of the general population, so it isn’t about users. It’s about hype. It’s about starting the hype cycle. In the startup world there isn’t a huge difference between “the thing everyone is talking about” and ”the thing everyone is using.” In fact, often times the former ends up cashing out for more than the latter because the latter seems to be boring to investors even when it’s a better and more solid business.

Within your network are some successful people – Tim Ferriss, Drew Curtis, Tucker Max. From your observation, what was the defining effort that led to their success as entrepreneurs?

Hitting an untapped market. Or in some cases, creating the very market they then tapped.

Big up to Ryan for taking the time out of his busy book launch schedule! Check out his blog or follow his twitter for insight on anything from philosophy to strategy.

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