Trust Me, I'm Lying
Trust Me, I'm Lying

Trust Me, I'm Lying

it illustrates a part of the media system that is hidden from your view: how the news is created and driven by marketers, and that no one does anything to stop it. (Location 146)

I pulled this off with no connections, no money, and no footsteps to follow. But because of the way that blogging is structured—from the way bloggers are paid by the pageview to the way blog posts must be written to catch the reader’s attention—this was all very easy to do. The system eats up the kind of material I produce. So as the manufactured storm I created played itself out in the press, real people started believing it, and it became true. (Location 164)

Winston Churchill wrote of the appeasers of his age that “each one hopes that if he feeds the crocodile enough, the crocodile will eat him last.” I was even more delusional. I thought I could skip being devoured entirely. It would never turn on me. I was in control. I was the expert. But I was wrong. (Location 217)

I didn’t intend to, but I’ve helped pioneer a media system designed to trick, cajole, and steal every second of the most precious resource in the world—people’s time. I’m going to show you every single one of these tricks, and what they mean. (Location 243)

Tags: news

blogs are vehicles from which mass media reporters—and your most chatty and “informed” friends—discover and borrow the news. (Location 282)

One early media critic put it this way: We’re a country governed by public opinion, and public opinion is largely governed by the press, so isn’t it critical to understand what governs the press? What rules over the media, he concluded, rules over the country. In this case, what rules over Politico literally almost ruled over everyone. (Location 288)

Tags: news

The constraints of blogging create artificial content, which is made real and impacts the outcome of real world events. (Location 317)

The economics of the Internet created a twisted set of incentives that make traffic more important—and more profitable—than the truth. With the mass media—and today, mass culture—relying on the web for the next big thing, it is a set of incentives with massive implications. (Location 318)

Note: Traffic is more important than the truth for blogs and online media outlets

It’s a strategy I developed that manipulates the media through recursion. I can turn nothing into something by placing a story with a small blog that has very low standards, which then becomes the source for a story by a larger blog, and that, in turn, for a story by larger media outlets. I create, to use the words of one media scholar, a “self-reinforcing news wave.” People like me do this everyday. (Location 336)

The smaller sites legitimize the newsworthiness of the story for the sites with bigger audiences. Consecutively and concurrently, this pattern inherently distorts and exaggerates whatever they cover. (Location 367)

Tags: favorite

Every person (with the exception of a few at the top layer) in this ecosystem is under immense pressure to produce content under the tightest of deadlines. Yes, you have something to sell. But more than ever they desperately, desperately need to buy. The flimsiest of excuses is all it takes. (Location 475)

The media is hopelessly interdependent. Not only is the web susceptible to spreading false information, but it can also be the source of it. (Location 495)

Tags: media

TRAFFIC IS MONEY On the face of it, blogs make their money from selling advertisements. These advertisements are paid for by the impression (generally a rate per thousand impressions). A site might have several ad units on each page; the publisher’s revenue equals the cumulative CPM (cost per thousand) multiplied by the number of pageviews. Advertisement × Traffic = Revenue. (Location 555)

portion of the advertising on blogs is sold directly by the publisher, a portion is sold by sales reps who work on commission, and the rest is sold by advertising networks that specialize in the remaining inventory. (Location 560)

sent a very clear message to publishers: Exclusives build blogs. Scoops equal traffic. (Location 582)

Media was once about protecting a name; on the web it is about building one. (Location 603)

Blogs are built to be sold. Though they make substantial revenues from advertising, the real money is in selling the entire site to a larger company for a multiple of the traffic and earnings. Usually to a rich sucker. (Location 629)

Influence is ultimately the goal of most blogs and blog publishers, because that influence can be sold to a larger media company. (Location 661)

ENTER: THE MANIPULATOR Bloggers eager to build names and publishers eager to sell their blogs are like two crooked businessmen colluding to create interest in a bogus investment opportunity—building up buzz and clearing town before anyone gets wise. In this world, where the rules and ethics are lax, a third player can exert massive influence. Enter: the media manipulator. (Location 665)


Ben Parr, editor at large at the popular technology blog Mashable, was once asked what he looked for when he hired writers for his blogs. His answer was one word: quickness. “Online journalism is fast-paced,” he explained. “We need people that can get the story out in minutes and can compose the bigger opinion pieces in a couple hours, not a couple of days.” (Location 685)

The payment structure of blogging reflects this emphasis on speed over other variables, such as quality, accuracy, or how informative the content might be. (Location 689)

Gawker set the curve for the industry again when they left the pay-per-post model and switched to a pageview-based compensation system that gave bonuses to writers based on their monthly traffic figures. These bonuses came on top of a set monthly pay, meaning that bloggers were eligible for payments that could effectively double their salary once they hit their monthly quota. You can imagine what kind of results this led to. (Location 695)

Google and YouTube pay their video bloggers solely on how many views they get, once they have been verified as a “quality” producer. In other cases Google will green-light just one hit video from an account and allow that to be monetized. YouTube sells and serves the ads, takes a substantial cut, and passes the rest on. Most of these figures are not public, but a decent account can hope to make about one penny per view, or one dollar for every thousand. (Location 715)

perks. The easiest way for bloggers to make real money is to transition to a job with an old media company or a tech company. (Location 748)

They can build a name and sell it to a sucker, just like their owners and investors are trying to do. (Location 749)

HBO. If you invest early in a blogger, you can buy your influence very cheaply. (Location 766)

since Nolan is being paid by how many views his posts do. His financial interest isn’t in what he writes about but in how he writes. In the pay-per-pageview model, every post is a conflict of interest. (Location 775)

Bloggers have a direct incentive to write bigger, to write simpler, to write more controversially or, conversely, more favorably, to write without having to do any work, to write more often than is warranted. Their paycheck depends on it. It’s no wonder they are vicious, irresponsible, inaccurate, and dishonest. (Location 777)

Tags: media

The reason the knives are so sharp online is because the pie is so small. (Location 781)


Bloggers are under incredible pressure to produce, leaving little time for research or verification, let alone for speaking to sources. In some cases, the story they are chasing is so crazy that they don’t want to risk doing research, because the whole facade would collapse. (Location 848)

Wikipedia acts as a certifier of basic information for many people, including reporters. (Location 866)


According to the story, “the most powerful predictor of virality is how much anger an article evokes” [emphasis mine]. I will say it again: The most powerful predictor of what spreads online is anger. (Location 993)

Tags: anger, news

Note: Anger spreads quickly online

The researchers found that while sadness is an extreme emotion, it is a wholly unviral one. (Location 999)

Note: Anger and outrage spreads easier than sadness

The media is in the evil position of needing to go negative and play tricks with your psyche in order to drive you to share their material online. (Location 1010)

Tags: media

Pity, empathy—those drive us to do something, like get up from our computers to act. But anger, fear, excitement, or laughter—these drive us to spread. They drive us to do something that makes us feel as if we are doing something... (Location 1015)

Tags: viral, media

When I design online ads for American Apparel, I almost always look for an angle that will provoke. Outrage, self-righteousness, and titillation all work equally well. Naturally, the sexy ones are probably those you remember most, but the formula worked for all types of images. (Location 1023)

The web has only one currency, and you can use any word you want for it—valence, extremes, arousal, powerfulness, excitement—but it adds up to false perception. Which is great if you’re a publisher but not if you’re someone who cares about the people in Detroit. What thrives online is not the writing that reflects anything close to the reality in which you and I live. Nor does it allow for the kind of change that will create the world we wish to live in. (Location 1084)


When you take away the question mark, it usually turns their headline into a lie. (Location 1102)

TACTIC #5 (Location 1170)


There are three distinct phases of the newspaper (which have been synonymous with “the news” for most of history). It begins with the Party Press, moves to the infamous Yellow Press, and ends finally with the stable period of the Modern Press (or press by subscription). These phases contain surprising parallels to where we are today with blogs—old mistakes made once more, manipulations made possible again for the first time in decades. (Location 1178)

The earliest forms of newspapers were a function of political parties. These were media outlets for party leaders to speak to party members, to give them the information they needed and wanted. It’s a part of news history that is often misunderstood or misused in discussions about media bias. (Location 1182)

This first stage of journalism was limited in its scope and impact. Because of the size and nature of its audience, the party press was not in the news business. They were in the editorial business. It was a different time and style, one that would be eclipsed by changes in technology and distribution. (Location 1188)

THE YELLOW PRESS Newspapers changed the moment that Benjamin Day launched the New York Sun in 1833. It was not so much his paper that changed everything but his way of selling it: on the street, one copy at a time. (Location 1191)

It was all these things not because of Bennett’s personal beliefs but because of his business beliefs. He knew that the newspaper’s role was “not to instruct but to startle.” His paper was anti-black, anti-immigrant, and anti-subtlety. These causes sold papers—to both people who loved them for it and people who hated them for it. And they bought and they bought. (Location 1202)

Media historian W. J. Cambell once identified the distinguishing markers of yellow journalism as follows: •   Prominent headlines that screamed excitement about ultimately unimportant news •  Lavish use of pictures (often of little relevance) •  Impostors, frauds, and faked interviews •  Color comics and a big, thick Sunday supplement •  Ostentatious support for the underdog causes •  Use of anonymous sources •  Prominent coverage of high society and events (Location 1224)


A subscription model—whether it’s music or news—offers necessary subsidies to the nuance that is lacking in the kind of stories that flourish in one-off distribution. Opposing views can now be included. Uncertainty can be acknowledged. Humanity can be allowed. Since articles don’t have to spread on their own, but rather as part of the unit (the whole newspaper or album or collection), publishers do not need to exploit valence to drive single-use buyers. (Location 1256)

Tags: media, subscription

With Ochs’s move, reputation began to matter more than notoriety. (Location 1259)


For most of the last century, the majority of journalism and entertainment was sold by subscription (the third phase). It is now sold again online à la carte—as a one-off. Each story must sell itself, must be heard over all the others, be it in Google News, on Twitter, or on your Facebook wall. (Location 1279)

This One-Off Problem is exactly like the one faced by the yellow press a century or more ago, and it distorts today’s news just as it did then—only now it’s amplified by millions of blogs instead of a few hundred newspapers. (Location 1281)

Just look at the top referring sources of traffic to major websites and blogs. Cumulatively, these referring sources almost always account for more visitors than the site’s direct traffic (i.e., people who typed in the URL). Though it varies from site to site, the biggest sources of traffic are, usually, in this order: Google, Facebook, Twitter. The viewers were sent directly to a specific article for a disposable purpose: they’re not subscribers; they are seekers or glancers. (Location 1295)

The reason subscription (and RSS) was abandoned was because in a subscription economy the users are in control. In the one-off model, the competition might be more vicious, but it is on the terms of the publisher. Having followers instead of subscribers—where readers have to check back on sites often and are barraged with a stream of refreshing content laden with ads—is much better for their bottom line. (Location 1317)


FOR MEDIA THAT LIVES AND DIES BY CLICKS (THE ONE-Off Problem) it all comes down to the headline. It’s what catches the attention of the public—yelled by a newsboy or seen on a search engine. (Location 1334)

As magician Ricky Jay once put it, “People respond to and are deceived by the same things they were a hundred years ago.” Only today the headlines aren’t being yelled on busy street corners but on noisy news aggregators and social networks. (Location 1365)

Outside of the subscription model, headlines are not intended to represent the contents of articles but to sell them—to win the fight for attention against an infinite number of other blogs or papers. (Location 1385)


I’m fond of a line by Nicolas Chamfort, a French writer, who believed that popular public opinion was the absolute worst kind of opinion. “One can be certain,” he said, “that every generally held idea, every received notion, will be idiocy because it has been able to appeal to the majority.” To a marketer, it’s just as well, because idiocy is easier to create than anything else. (Location 1467)

Tags: societal norms

Pageview journalism is about scale. Sites have to publish multiple stories every few minutes to make a profit, and why shouldn’t your story be one of them? (Location 1485)

As Brandon Mendelson wrote for Forbes, the lure of pageviews takes blogs to places they otherwise never should have gone: A couple of years ago, I quit blogging for Mashable after they had posted the suicide note to the guy who flew a helicopter into a government building in Texas. Pete’s [the publisher] response to me quitting over the suicide note was, pretty much, “Other blogs were doing it.” He never explained why a Web / Tech / Social Media guide would post a crazy person’s suicide note. “Who wants to say ‘I did it for the page views’ out loud?” (Location 1495)

Warnock’s Dilemma, for its part, poses several interpretations: 1.   The post is correct, well-written information that needs no follow-up commentary. There’s nothing more to say except, “Yeah, what he said.” 2.   The post is complete and utter nonsense, and no one wants to waste the energy or bandwidth to even point this out. 3.   No one read the post, for whatever reason. 4.   No one understood the post but won’t ask for clarification, for whatever reason. 5.   No one cares about the post, for whatever reason. (Location 1521)

you’re a publisher, this checklist causes more headaches than it cures. It’s all bad. Possibility number one is unprofitable: We know that practical utility doesn’t spread, and posts that don’t generate follow-up commentary are dead in the link economy. Possibility number two is embarrassing and damaging to the brand. Possibility number three is bad for obvious reasons. Possibility number four means the post was probably too ambitious, too academic, and too certain for anyone to risk questions. Possibility number five means somebody chose the wrong topic. (Location 1528)

Tags: news

You’re basically asking for favors if you try to get blogs to cover something that isn’t going to drive pageviews and isn’t going to garner clear responses. Blogs are not in the business of doing favors—even if all you’re asking is for them to print the truth. (Location 1554)


The way news is found online more or less determines what is found. The way the news must be presented—in order to meet the technical constraints of the medium and the demands of its readers—determines the news itself. It’s basically a cliché at this point, but that doesn’t change the fact that Marshall McLuhan was right: The medium is the message. (Location 1584)

The best way to get traffic is to publish as much as possible, as quickly as possible, and as simply as possible. (Location 1621)

Preposterously faulty intuition like this can be seen across the web, on blogs and sites of all types. The pressure to keep content visually appealing and ready for impulse readers is a constant suppressant on length, regardless of what is cut to make it happen. (Location 1630)

One chapter—the same chapter people enjoyed fully in book form—had to be split up into eight separate posts. To get attention we had to cut it up into itty-bitty bites and spoon-feed it to readers and bloggers like babies. (Location 1681)

Blogs must—economically and structurally—distort the news in order for the format to work. As businesses, blogs can see the world through no other lens. The format is the problem. Or the perfect opportunity, depending on how you look at it. (Location 1686)

No matter how dull, mundane, or complex a topic may be, a good reporter must find the angle. Bloggers, descended from these journalists, have to take it to an entirely new level. They need to find not only the angle but the click-driving headline, an eye-catching image; generate comments and links; and in some cases, squeeze in some snark. And they have to do it up to a dozen times a day without the help of an editor. They can smell the angle of a story like a shark smells blood in the water. Because the better the angle, the more the blogger gets paid. (Location 1697)

Tags: news

As the veteran bloggers John Biggs and Charlie White put it in their book Blogger Boot Camp, there is “no topic too mundane that you can’t pull a post out of it.” (Location 1714)

When I say it’s okay for you to make stuff up because everybody else is doing it, I’m not kidding. MG Siegler is, and he’s one of the dominant voices in tech blogging (TechCrunch, PandoDaily). According to him, most of what he and his competitors write is bullshit. “I won’t try to put some arbitrary label on it, like 80%,” he once admitted, “but it’s a lot. There’s more bullshit than there is 100% pure, legitimate information.”3 I’d commend him for coming clean, but this uncharacteristic moment of self-awareness in 2012 hasn’t seemed to have changed his blogging habits. (Location 1723)

To paraphrase Charles Horton Cooley, the products of our imagination become the solid facts of society. (Location 1762)

Basically, these blogs have a hustle going where one moves the ball as far as they can up the field, and then the next one takes it and in doing so reifies whatever baseless speculation was included in the first report. (Location 1768)


This is how it works online. A writer finds a narrative to advance that is profitable to them, or perhaps that they are personally or ideologically motivated to advance, and are able to thrust it into the national consciousness before anyone has a chance to bother checking if it’s true or not. (Location 1917)

It’s a prime example of the feminist blogosphere’s tendency to tap into the market force of what I’ve come to think of as “outrage world”—the regularly occurring firestorms stirred up on mainstream, for-profit, woman-targeted blogs like Jezebel and also, to a lesser degree, Slate’s own XX Factor and Salon’s Broadsheet. They’re ignited by writers who are pushing readers to feel what the writers claim is righteously indignant rage but which is actually just petty jealousy, cleverly marketed as feminism. These firestorms are great for page-view-pimping bloggy business. (Location 1922)


Better than anyone Breitbart understood that the media doesn’t mind being played, because they get something out of it—namely, pageviews, ratings, and readers. (Location 1987)

“Feeding the media is like training a dog. You can’t throw an entire steak at a dog to train it to sit. You have to give it little bits of steak over and over again until it learns.” (Location 1989)

O’Keefe learned from Brietbart that in the blogging market there is a profound shortage of investigative material or original reporting. It’s just too expensive to produce. (Location 2001)

If you can put aside the unfortunate fate that befell Sherrod, you can see what masterful music Breitbart and O’Keefe are able to play on the instruments of online media. When they sit down to publish on their blogs, they are not simply political extremists but ruthless seekers of attention. From this attention comes fame and profit—a platform for bestselling books, lucrative speaking and consulting gigs, donations, and millions of dollars in online advertising revenue. (Location 2024)


YOU SIT DOWN TO YOUR COMPUTER TO WORK. FIVE minutes later you’re on your fifth YouTube video of talking babies. What happened? Do you just not have any self-control? Sorry, but self-control has got nothing to do with it. Not when the clip was deliberately made more attractive by subliminally embedded images guaranteed to catch your attention. Not when the length of the video was calibrated to be precisely as long as average viewers are statistically most likely to watch. (Location 2040)

No wonder you can’t get any work done. They won’t let you. (Location 2047)

The key, as megawatt liberal blogger Matt Yglesias advised when interviewed for the book Making It in the Political Blogosphere, is to keep readers addicted: “The idea is to discourage people from drifting away. If you give them a break, they might find that there’s something else that’s just as good, and they might go away.” (Location 2048)

The idea that the web is empowering is just a bunch of rattling, chattering talk. Everything you consume online has been “optimized” to make you dependent on it. Content is engineered to be clicked, glanced at, or found—like a trap designed to bait, distract, and capture you. Blogs are out to game you—to steal your time from you and sell it to advertisers—and they do this every day. (Location 2058)

That’s what web culture does to you. Psychologists call this the “narcotizing dysfunction,” when people come to mistake the busyness of the media with real knowledge, and confuse spending time consuming that with doing something. (Location 2108)

In 1948, long before the louder, faster, and busier world of Twitter and social media, Paul Lazarsfeld and Robert Merton wrote: The interested and informed citizen can congratulate himself on his lofty state of interest and information and neglect to see that he has abstained from decision and action. In short, he takes his secondary contact with the world of political reality, his reading and listening and thinking, as a vicarious performance…. He is concerned. He is informed. And he has all sorts of ideas as to what should be done. But, after he has gotten through his dinner and after he has listened to his favored radio programs and after he has read his second newspaper of the day, it is really time for (Location 2109)


Get a small blog to pick a story up and pass it upward to bigger and more credible outlets, which simply link to the previous report and don’t bother to verify it. (Location 2179)

But as the trading up the chain scam makes it clear, the media is no longer governed by a set of universal editorial and ethics standards. Even within publications, the burden of proof for the print version of a newspaper might differ drastically from what reporters need to go live with a blog post. (Location 2206)

Blogs have long borrowed on the principle that links imply credibility. (Location 2250)

Even Google exploits this perception. The search engine, founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin when they were Stanford students, copies a standard practice from academia in which the number of citations a scientific paper gets is an indicator of how influential or important it is. (Location 2251)



Iterative journalism, process journalism, beta journalism—whatever name you use, it’s stupid and dangerous. It calls for bloggers to publish first and then verify what they wrote after they’ve posted it. (Location 2435)

“Online, we often publish first and edit later. Newspaper people see their articles as finished products of their work. Bloggers see their posts as part of the process of learning.” (Location 2458)

“Getting it right is expensive, getting it first is cheap.” (Location 2460)

Bloggers don’t fabricate news, but they do suspend their disbelief, common sense, and responsibility in order to get to big stories first. (Location 2470)

The pressure to “get something up” is inherently at odds with the desire to “get things right.” (Location 2471)

Ultimately, that is why iterative journalism is so attractive for publishers. It eliminates costs such as fact-checkers or staff time to build relationships with sources. It is profitable, because it allows writers to return to the same story multiple times and drives more comments, links, and excitement than normal, non-“breaking” news. To call it a learning experience or a process, or anything but a way to make more money, is a lie. (Location 2491)

Stocks move on news—any news—and rumors passed on by high-profile blogs are no exception. It does not matter if they are updated or corrected or part of a learning curve; blogs are read by real people who make opinions and decisions as they read. (Location 2556)

The danger of real-time journalism hides in plain sight: Its jumpiness can easily be exploited by interested parties—people like me. Leaking or sharing information with the right blog introduces a narrative that can immediately and overwhelmingly take hold. By the time the proper facts have been established, it is too late to dislodge a now commonly held perception. In this model, the audience is viewed as nothing more than a dumb mob to be manipulated and used to create pageviews. (Location 2575)

The poet Hesiod once wrote that rumor and gossip are a “light weight to lift up, but heavy to carry and hard to put down.” Iterative journalism is much the same. Its practices come easily, almost naturally, given the way blogs are designed and the way the web operates. It seems cheaper, but it’s not. The costs have just been externalized, to the readers and the subjects of the stories, who write down millions each year in falsely damaged reputations and perceptions. Iterative journalism makes the news cheap to produce but expensive to read. (Location 2593)


Corrections online are a joke. All of the justifications for iterative journalism are not only false—they are literally the opposite of how it works in practice. (Location 2614)

Tags: news, bloggers

Once the mind has accepted a plausible explanation for something, it becomes a framework for all the information that is perceived after it. We’re drawn, subconsciously, to fit and contort all the subsequent knowledge we receive into our framework, whether it fits or not. Psychologists call this cognitive rigidity. The facts that built an original premise are gone, but the conclusion remains—the general feeling of our opinion floats over the collapsed foundation that established it. Information overload, “busyness,” speed, and emotion all exacerbate this phenomenon. They make it even harder to update our beliefs or remain open-minded. When readers repeat, comment on, react to, and hear rumors—all actions blogs are designed to provoke—it becomes harder for them to see real truth when it is finally presented or corrected. (Location 2724)

It is true that the iterative model can eventually get the story right, just like in theory Wikipedia perpetually moves toward higher quality pages. The distributed efforts of hundreds or thousands of blogs can aggregate a final product that may even be superior to what one dedicated newsroom could ever make. When they do, I’ll gladly congratulate them—they can throw themselves a tweeter-tape parade for all I care—but I’ll have to remind them when it’s all over that it didn’t make a difference. More people were misled than helped. (Location 2735)

We place an inordinate amount of trust in things that have been written down. This comes from centuries of knowing that writing was expensive—that it was safe to assume that someone would rarely waste the resources to commit to paper something untrue. The written word and the use of it conjures up deep associations with authority and credence that are thousands of years old. (Location 2740)


Public relations and marketing are something companies do to move product. It is not meaningful, it is not cool. Yet because it is cheap, easy, and lucrative to cover, blogs want to convince you that it is. And we’ve mostly accepted that, consuming such schlock like it’s news. (Location 2801)

Coverage about coverage is not more coverage, though it may feel like it. One is information we can make use of—for example, it’s important to know that a killer like bin Laden is no longer a threat to our physical safety. The other is worthless filler—news that tells us how we were told about the news. Yet blogs write these stories because they are easy, because they are self-promotional and glorifying, and because they make them seem relevant by their association with actually important news. (Location 2835)


As Scott Adams said later in an interview: “Ideas are society’s fuel. I drill a lot of wells; most of them are dry. Sometimes they produce. Sometimes the well catches on fire.” (Location 3010)

If controversial ideas are the victims of snark, who benefits from it? Who doesn’t mind snark? Who likes it? The answer is obvious: People with nothing to lose. People who need to be talked about, like attention-hungry reality stars. There is nothing that you could say that would hurt the cast of Jersey Shore. They need you to talk about them, to insult them, and to make fun of them is to do that. They have no reputation to ruin, only notoriety to gain. (Location 3013)


SOCIOLOGIST GERALD CROMER ONCE NOTED THAT the decline of public executions coincided almost exactly with the rise of the mass newspaper. Oscar Wilde said it better: “In the old days men had the rack. Now they have the Press.” (Location 3027)

Bloggers must write and film and publish an insurmountable amount of material per day, and only if they’re lucky will any of it be rewarded with a bonus or health insurance. Yet the people they cover are often rich and successful or worse, like idiotic and talentless reality television stars. It’s enough to make anyone bitter and angry. And indeed they are. They grind with the “rage of the creative underclass,” as New York magazine called it. (Location 3110)

Tags: bloggers

IN THIS BOOK I HAVE ILLUSTRATED THE WAYS IN WHICH bloggers, as they sit down at their computers, are prompted to speculate, rush, exaggerate, distort, and mislead—and how people like me encourage these impulses Blogs are assailed on all sides, by the crushing economics of their business, dishonest sources, inhuman deadlines, pageview quotas, inaccurate information, greedy publishers, poor training, the demands of the audience, and so much more. These incentives are real, whether you’re the Huffington Post or some tiny blog. Taken individually, the resulting output is obvious: bad stories, incomplete stories, wrong stories, unimportant stories. (Location 3129)

When the news is decided not by what is important but by what readers are clicking; when the cycle is so fast that the news cannot be anything else but consistently and regularly incomplete; when dubious scandals pressure politicians to resign and scuttle election bids or knock millions from the market caps of publicly traded companies; when the news frequently covers itself in stories about “how the story unfolded”—unreality is the only word for (Location 3141)

Nick Denton told his writers the same thing nearly one hundred years later: “The job of journalism is to provide surprise.”* News is only news if it departs from the routine of daily life. (Location 3148)

Tags: news, journalism

Note: News is only news if it departs from the routine of daily life

But what if most of what happens is expected? Most things do not depart from the routine. Most things are not worth talking about. But the news must be. And so the normal parts of life are omitted from the news by virtue of being normal. (Location 3150)

Tags: news

Note: The news doesn’t report normal events, only unusual and extreme events

What’s known as news is not a summary of everything that has happened recently. It’s not even a summary of the most important things that have happened recently. The news, whether it’s found online or in print, is just the content that successfully navigated the media’s filters. Possibly with my help. Since the news informs our understanding of what is occurring around us, these filters create a constructed reality. (Location 3155)

The news funnel: ALL THAT HAPPENS ALL THAT’S KNOWN BY THE MEDIA ALL THAT IS NEWSWORTHY ALL THAT IS PUBLISHED AS NEWS ALL THAT SPREADS In other words, the media is a mechanism for systematically limiting the information seen by the public. (Location 3160)

are anything planned deliberately to attract the attention of the media. A quick run down the list of pseudo-events shows their indispensability to the news business: press releases, award ceremonies, red-carpet events, premieres, product launches, anniversaries, grand openings, “leaks,” the contrite celebrity interview after a scandal, the sex tape, the tell-all, the public statement, controversial advertisements, marches on Washington, press junkets, and on and on. (Location 3181)


When you see “We’re hearing reports” know that reports could mean anything from random mentions on Twitter to message board posts, or worse. (Location 3228)

When you see “leaked” or “official documents” know that the leak really meant someone just e-mailed a blogger, and that the documents are almost certainly not official and are usually fake or fabricated for the purpose of making desired information public. (Location 3229)

When you see “Updated” on a story or article know that no one actually bothered to rework the story in light of the new facts—they just copied and pasted some shit at the bottom of the article. (Location 3234)

When you hear a friend say in conversation “I was reading that …” know that today the sad fact is that they probably just glanced at something on a blog. (Location 3251)

Blogs, to paraphrase Kierkegaard, left everything standing but cunningly emptied them of significance. (Location 3258)

Fake news. I don’t mean fake news in the Fox News sense. I mean the fake news that clogs up most newspapers and most news websites, for that matter. The new initiative will go nowhere. The new policy isn’t new at all…. The product isn’t revolutionary. And journalists pretend that these official statements and company press releases actually constitute news…. Fake news, manufactured, hyped, rehashed, retracted—until at the end of the week you know no more than at the beginning. You really might as well wait for a weekly like the Economist to tell you what the net position is at the end of the week. (Location 3298)

The dominant cultural medium, Postman understood, determines culture itself. (Location 3314)

Well, television is no longer the main stage of culture. The Internet is. Blogs are. YouTube is. Twitter is. And their demands control our culture exactly as television once did. Only the Internet worships a different god: Traffic. It lives and dies by clicks, because that’s what drives ad revenue and influence. The central question for the Internet is not, Is this entertaining? but, Will this get attention? Will it spread? (Location 3315)

As Ed Wallace, the BusinessWeek writer, reminds us: “The first job of the journalist is to ask, ‘Is this information true?’” Bloggers refuse to accept this mantle. Instead of getting us the truth, they focus on one thing, and one thing only: getting their publisher pageviews. (Location 3358)

Note: Bloggers are only focused on page views, not the truth

When intelligent people read, they ask themselves a simple question: What do I plan to do with this information? (Location 3367)

Tags: reading

Note: Do something with the information you read

Colonial newspapers at various points in British history were required to post a security bond in order to enter the publishing business. It was intended to secure payments in the event of a libel action and to ensure some responsibility by the press. It gave the public (and the state) some recourse against publishers who often had few assets to pay for the damage they could potentially inflict. There is precedent for these types of protections—which blogs show us we desperately need once again. We have simply forgotten about them. (Location 3379)