You should understand that everything you read from this point forward is to manipulate you. Everything from the headline, to the first paragraph, as well as the links and all the photos are deliberately placed to compel you to click you mouse. Everything else is irrelevant and your belief system and ideology hardly matter. When you click you’re mouse, someone is getting paid. That’s the theory that Ryan Holiday subscribes to in his new book Trust me, I’m Lying.
Depending on how you look at it though, Holiday is either a genius or untrustworthy. After all, this is from a guy who manipulated the media and got Nobel Prize in Literature contender Tucker Max and his 2 epic thrillers soon to be movies starring Kristen Stewart I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell and Tucker Max Is An A**hole to the NYT Best Seller list. Until recently, Holiday thought you were the ignorant a-hole, but comes clean and effectively asks for forgiveness with in his new book by confessing his sins. I’m not so sure I buy it.
It’s true the Huffington Post knows what gets to you and they give it to you exactly the way you want it. They know with a great deal of predictability that you will feel good with pro-President Obama articles and derogatory Republican ones. That’s easy, but it’s not journalism. It’s called Pageview blogging.
You might not know though that you are more likely to share articles that make you angry more than the ones that make you happy. Those are the articles about the tax-efficacy of Romney’s investments or anything solidly Republican or how President Obama has not gotten anything done in 3.5 years since taking office, or that he’s painfully behind in campaign fundraising — a key metric in winning elections – and will most likely lose because Romney is so rich, he is his own Super Pac.
They won’t necessarily shy away from showing President Obama with ought-to-be in jail Jon Corzine, although it’s common knowledge that Corzine left Goldman Sachs with a greater net worth than Mitt Romney and that $1.2 billion of customer funds are still missing. The major blogs know that with a picture like that, readers can always attack the author of the article, as long as it gets you angry.
Does this picture make you angry at me, President Obama, Jon Corzine, or at Wall St. in general? Either way, as long as you get angry, the blogs win.
According to Holiday, you don’t read the major blog to learn, but to be tracked and studied like lab rats whose data is mined like blood diamonds and is for sale to the highest bidding advertisers. They push your buttons, you click theirs. That’s the business model. And although most pageview-based blogs disclose what they do with your data, the rules are written as if it were a Prospectus for an IPO. Moreover, you most likely don’t know the processes in which your data is being used. Time to make the sausages — want to watch?
This tactic is not just relegated to Huffington Post, but to most of the major blogs such as Business Insider, Politico, and Gawker. “Blogs are there to manipulate you,” said Holiday. “In many ways, the truth, the facts, the research, and the attribution of quotes are irrelevant because of how bloggers are paid.”
Holiday contends that you don’t really care what is fact or fiction because of how your emotions are poked and prodded: readers are like a cattle that never quite get slaughtered, but are moved through a deliberate cattle-herding process of ongoing double-clicking. In the process, you the reader get to feel understood by sharing your anger or dissension with other like-minded individuals and that makes you feel good. People want to be understood. Good feeling gone? And where is the Corrections and Amplifications page on these blogs…?
Holiday further contends that the issues are secondary to them to the extent that they can get you to a) click on the articles and read them; b) rate the article from 1 to 10; c) stay on the site and read related articles; and d) share the article on Twitter or Facebook. Why else do they give you the ability to login with your Twitter or Facebook credentials?
By making it easier for you to share, you will do it. Also, you are bombed with advertisements during the process, and as you probably figured out by now, all your Twitter and Facebook data are accumulated for someone else’s benefit. Then again, you get badges and recognition for your Huffington Post dashboard and Facebook as a “Super User.”
Holiday thinks you should understand that to mean “Super Used” because to him you are no more than a tool – a collection of people to be agitated enough to create a wave of free publicity for the benefit of his clients and the benefit of the blog. Still clicking?
Despite absolute disdain for the Huffington Post, Holiday reserves his strongest language for Business Insider honcho and founder Henry Blodget who he refers to as a male body part. He thinks Henry is a phony and that his minions such as the ubiquitous Joe Weisenthal must generate 3x their salary in pageviews and that with that business model, most of what Weisenthal must share on Twitter is blathering garbage because he starts each month so far in the hole.
(Disclosure: I’ve written for both Henry and Arianna and neither are evil or bad people, never mind “a d*ckhead.” I like them both very much. As a commodity trader, you might think I am evil or bad. How much are you paying for gas ☺. I also follow Arianna, Henry, and Joe on Twitter.)
Is it ok that you get manipulated as long as you’re aware of it? What do you think of the new fad of anal tattooing that Huffington Post had on the front page?
That isn’t front page material, but it is when you think if it in terms of what is clicked and shared it absolutely is front page material. Holiday’s theory is terribly true in this regard.
Even the left-of-center Huffington Post readership is willing to put a video of a troubled 22-year old woman getting her anus tattooed while doing shots of alcohol as long as it’s shared. Even the left-of-center Huffington Post readership will not see this as degrading to women because the sharability of this video overcomes the reader’s otherwise liberal sensibilities b/c “hey, it’s her choice to do this to her body.”
Here you have to choose between the varying strata of being liberal. The Huffington Post and other large blogs know how you’ll vote so to speak before you click your mouse. As long as it’s something worth sharing, you’re less likely to see a pure form of journalism for the highly shareable pageview journalism that is so much more profitable.