Brighton-based podcast secures first UK interview with secretive US spin doctor
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- American Apparel marketing director behind fake smear campaigns
- Claims he’s simply been exploiting an open secret
Ryan Holiday, the spin doctor at high-street chain American Apparel, has confessed to being the name behind a string of controversial media campaigns stretching back six years, in a hard-hitting interview with Brighton-based podcast Communication Lab.
The secretive 25-year-old says he has been exploiting what he claims are major flaws in the world of online journalism, which in turn drive the global news agenda. Among his allegations are that stories are commissioned according to the most popular search terms and that pay-per-click incentives for bloggers make our entire media system open to manipulation.
The interview coincides with the publication of Holiday's new book, 'Trust me, I'm lying – confessions of a media manipulator' (published 19 July, Penguin Portfolio), in which he lays bare his entire blueprint for exploiting what he sees as a systemically flawed system.
'It's a race to the bottom,' he says. 'It's time we stopped pretending the internet is this wonderful world of citizen engagement. It's not: it's a dangerous cesspool of misinformation.'
Among his many revelations are how he orchestrated a smear campaign and protest movement against one of his own clients, the controversial author Tucker Max, which generated coverage in everything from the Chicago Tribune to The Washington Post.
He details how he's worked the system to dupe major online news blogs multiple times. Pulling few punches, he levels severe criticism at the very blogs who have fed his own marketing machine, including Gawker.com and The Huffington Post.
'Bloggers are incentivised to suspend disbelief,' claims Holiday. 'Sometimes the stories are so crazy that they don't want to risk doing any research.' The fear, he says, is that the whole facade will collapse if they do.
While this might not be news to some, he says that he's going public now to dispel what he sees as the myth that blogs are somehow superior to the worst of the tabloid newspapers.
But he blames the system, rather than the writers themselves. 'Bloggers are under incredible pressure to produce. That leaves little time for verification, let alone to speak to anyone.' Posts that leave out key facts or make readers angry generate more comments – and therefore page views – than better researched or balanced articles do, he says. So that's what they write. The fact that offline media look to blogs for news leads leaves the system wide open to abuse, he claims.
To hear the complete interview, go to: http://www.writing-skills.com/writing-for-media/communication-lab-7-confessions-of-a-media-manipulator
*Notes for editors*
- Ryan Holiday, 25, is a media strategist for such notorious clients as Tucker Max and Dov Charney. After dropping out of college at the age of 19 to apprentice under Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power, he went on to advise many bestselling authors and multiplatinum musicians. He is the director of marketing at American Apparel, and his controversial campaigns have been written about in AdAge, the New York Times, Gawker and Fast Company. He lives in New Orleans.
- Trust me, I’m lying – confessions of a media manipulator is published by Penguin Portfolio. For more information, go to www.trustmeimlying.com
- Communication Lab is published by business-writing trainers Emphasis (www.writing-skills.com) and produced by Wire World Media.
- With headquarters in Brighton, UK, Emphasis has a dedicated team of experienced, specialist consultants who run bespoke courses on-site for organisations across the UK. It also runs open courses for smaller groups or individuals throughout the year in London.
- Emphasis welcomes media requests for comment on all business-writing topics.