Paris Hilton Killing Me Softly: How Mass Media Passes Off Crap as News… (plus Learning Annex, 4-Hour Frauds, and More)


Drew Curtis is the CEO of and one cool dude. Not only did he introduce me to horseracing and Woodford Reserve four-grain bourbon, but he is — in my opinion — the most brilliant media observer and trend identifier in the US. No joke. On top of that, one thing was glaringly obvious when I crashed on his couch just outside of Louisville: he is happy ALL THE TIME. This is highly relevant to the advice he gives here in our little Q&A:

1. What is “news” now vs. in the 50s? If different, why?

There were certain things that respectable journalists wouldn’t write about in the 50s. For example, JFK managed to keep his affairs under wraps even though most of the white house press corps knew about it. They refused to write stories on it because it wasn’t respectable. Not that it’s a great ideas to have affairs or anything, but at least there were standards. Those are being slowly whittled away. When Saddam was hung, illicit camera phone footage ran on every major network for three days. We’ve crossed the snuff film barrier; all we have left is hardcore pornography as a limit to what media won’t portray.

2. Which media patterns do you find most annoying, and which media patterns do you think are the most dangerous without being obviously so?

Equal Time for Nutjobs. It’s all funny when you talk about people not believing in moon landings, or who think an alien crash-landed in Texas in
1897, or who believe that there was once an ancient mediterranean civilization in Florida. It’s another thing entirely when people start to believe that denying the holocaust is a valid opinion.

3. If you had to limit your information intake to less than 30 minutes a day (excluding email), what would you consume/read/watch?

Nothing. I’d wait until my friends asked me “did you see that?” and then say “no, why do you ask?” and see if their response is interesting. You can always catch up later. Oftentimes when news breaks it’s hours or days before anyone knows what actually happened. Wait until next week for the summary if it’s that important.

4. What was the specific incident or realization that inspired you to write this book?

Initially, I noticed that a story about German condom sizes being too large would reappear occasionally. Then I noticed other stories that
re-appeared on a regular basis, like Seasonal Articles that come out every year (“There Will Be Traffic on the 4th of July”, “People Procrastinate When Filing Their Taxes”, and the inevitable combo article of “Where To Get Your Halloween Candy X-Rayed — By the Way, It’s a Hoax”

Then I noticed other patterns like Media Fearmongering, Out of Context Celebrity Comment, and so on. But the kicker was noticing that when
actual news does occur, all of these types of stories vanish completely. Until the event ends, and then media returns to its old ways

5. What advice would you give to someone who feels guilty if they’re not keeping up with the latest “news”?

Take two weeks off. Don’t watch any news, don’t read any news, don’t listen to any radio talk shows. Then tune back in. Did you miss
anything? Nope. It’s the same old crap, different days. That’s what I’m talking about in my book — the media patterns that are used to fill space. It’s 95% or more of the content of any given news show.

For you low-information diet aficionados out there, as well as anyone who wants a snort-milk-through-your-nose funny read, go grab a copy of Drew’s awesome (he has blurbs from Stephen King and CNN producers) new book, It’s Not News, It’s Fark: How Mass Media Tries to Pass Off Crap as News. It rocks.


Other Updates and Tidbits — Learning Annex Canceled, New 4HWW Tools from Readers, and 4-Hour Frauds

All Learning Annex appearances scheduled for this week (LA, San Diego, SF) have been canceled.
Because of an unfortunate scheduling mishap, I will not be appearing at the Learning Annex locations in LA, San Diego, and SF this week. My sincerest apologies. This was due to factors outside of my control, and I would like to offer all of you who prepaid for the Learning Annex free entrance to my next speaking engagement where this is possible. Please keep your e-mail receipts!

Finally — a beautiful Excel spreadsheet for Dreamlining!
I owe a special thanks to Jared Goralnick and SET Consulting for putting together a beautiful free spreadsheet that all readers can use for automatic Dreamlining. Download it here and be sure to read the instructions. Too cool. Thanks, Jared!

4-Hour frauds: request for leads and invitation to stop.
It appears that there are a number of people running around offering “4-Hour Workweek” seminars and claiming to be affiliated with me (thanks for the heads up, Shawn). I have no products or seminars related to the book, so this is complete falsehood. If anyone has any information related to anyone doing this, please email it to amy @ It has also come to my attention that a number of individuals are using the 4HWW content and trademarks to sell derivative products, primarily online (even linking from my forums!). This includes using the 4HWW trademarks in GoogleAdwords ads and text.

To those of you selling these seminars and products, and using the trademarks for commercial purposes, I invite you to stop. It’ll be about a week before I revisit this to see if it’s continuing. I hate lawyers and all of that, but misrepresentation and federal trademark violation is serious business with serious punishments. I’m sure some of you were unaware that what you are doing is illegal, but now you know: please stop.

Posted on: July 1, 2007.

Watch The Tim Ferriss Experiment, the new #1-rated TV show with "the world's best human guinea pig" (Newsweek), Tim Ferriss. It's Mythbusters meets Jackass. Shot and edited by the Emmy-award winning team behind Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations and Parts Unknown. Here's the trailer.

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36 comments on “Paris Hilton Killing Me Softly: How Mass Media Passes Off Crap as News… (plus Learning Annex, 4-Hour Frauds, and More)

  1. So, next step is a filter, so I can still get important news but skip the noise.

    Any suggestions on that, besides waiting for friends to say “didn’t you hear? …”


  2. Thanks for posting the link to the dreamline spreadsheet I posted, Tim. If your readers have suggestions for improvement, they can contact me at the site and I’ll be happy to incorporate them. Keep up the good work!


  3. Pingback: A Pile Of Blog
  4. Tim,
    I used to be a newsaholic, and even though I knew 98% of it was crap, I couldn’t help it. I think part of it was I wanted to be the first to know when something happened, so I could tell everybody else.

    Thanks to your book, I’ve been news free for about three weeks and I’m never going back. Not only am I more productive, but I feel the weight of all the world’s problems, which I kept such meticulous track of, are off my back.

    Now, I let people be the first to tell me when something important happens, which as you said makes for excellent summaries as well as conversations.

    This is only one of many ways your book is changing my life.

    Thanks a million!


  5. I, too, stopped doing business with The Learning Annex when it became clear that they don’t respect their speakers. Even when you make them lots of money, they can’t be bothered with you.

    On a more positive note, thanks for the virtual book tour last week – I enjoyed it!


  6. “What advice would you give to someone who feels guilty if they’re not keeping up with the latest “newsâ€??”

    Hi Tim,

    I’m not sure which news sources you currently use, but I find a marked difference between US and EU news outlets. I would agree that US news programmes are a waste of time and contain light weight content. Howevever, I find that EU/UK sources to be much more rounded and focused on the issues that really matter.

    For the record I am a UK citizen currently living in deepest darkest Europe, thus take my news input from a range of source (N.B. I have also lived in the US and found the mainstream news output to be truly drivell.)

    Just my 2c worth.


  7. In you book you mention how to get a book publishing deal by picking top ten authors and asking targeted questions. 1. Could you give me an idea of a few questions you asked these people.
    2. Website, links, articles I should read before crafting my snipper-like questions and …
    3. Which outsource service did you use to put together this book

    Thank you,


  8. Thanks for the comments, all! Duncan, I do agree that some EU news outlets — ¨some¨ being an operative word here, as UK tabloids and bad newspapers are worse than ours — can be better. The common factors seems to be multiple international editors. If I had to choose one ¨news¨ source, it would be The Economist magazine. My second choice would be the International Herald Tribune. That said, I don´t currently read either regularly, but if I were to put in the time, those would be my top picks.

    Gotta run… Off to do something I´ve always dreamed of doing — sitting in hot springs watching lava shoot out of an active volcano! Total cost with 2 hour personal tour beforehand? $35 US.

    Keep up the conversation y pura vida!



  9. Learning Annex — so are we to assume you won’t be doing Learning Annex. They said you were rescheduling and asked those of us registered to let our money float. Although they did say lots of people were cancelling? Still unsure– seems that my note to the last post got deleted?? js.


  10. I bought your book and was looking forward to hearing you speak. I went to the Learning Annex online sign-up for the Los Angeles seminar, and they had an announcement displayed stating they were not taking any sign-ups and were in discussion with the speaker for future dates. The Learning Annex administration has had some major challenges over the years – I believe the person who started it all sold the company, and then he bought it back. They double charged me once, and then it took awhile to get my refund.


  11. Thanks for putting out one of my favorite (and I think most empowering) lines:
    “no, why do you ask?” It can accomplish so much, in addition to being a useful news filter. Aloha, Rox


  12. I wholeheartedly agree re your comments about The Economist and also IHT. I read both regularly (print edition and online ). A subscription to The Economist is particularly good value and they’ll mail it anywhere in the world, even if you’re nomadic.



  13. Hi Joyce and All,

    At this point, I have not rescheduled with the Learning Annex, so it might be prudent to get your refund and simply rebook later when something is confirmed. My schedule doesn’t open up for at least 5-6 weeks.

    Again, I apologize for this confusion. It’s been equally frustrating for me! I hope to have some good news for you guys this week, so keep an eye on the blog.

    Also, the finalists for the competition are coming in about 30-60 minutes, I hope, assuming I don’t get kicked out of this internet cafe :)

    Keep up the good fight!



  14. #3 30 minutest of info

    I’ve got all my favorite RSS feeds at my 4HWW NING blog, so it makes it super convenient to get the news I want and check in on forum and email comments.

    but you can do the same thing now with a Google homepage (and maybe yahoo startpage too -not sure). Most of your favorite biz mags and news sites will have rss feeds, so you just input them on your own page.

    I need to keep up on all this news to run my biz, but it’s also the news I enjoy to read.


  15. Great book, Tim! I have a flexible work schedule now and is currently running a part-time business (“running” being the operative word). I am looking forward to “owning” a business that won’t require my presence. Your book is a wealth of information and insights. Thank you for writing it!


  16. Tim,
    I loved your book! I guess I’ve been one of the NR even though until reading your book I didn’t have a name for it. You highlight many of the philosophies I had already used to turn my business into “the goose that lays the golden egg” requiring only a few hours a week to keep it going. But I never would have done it except for thinking and acting outside the box, and believing something so crazy was possible, much like you talk about in your book. But I still struggle with many of the doubts that you expressed in your book, so your book has become for me a life manifesto. It resonated so strong with me like nothing ever has. I was planning on doing an extended trip to South America last winter, but gave into my fears of “what if x happens? Will my business fall apart?” But no more. After reading your book, I am resolved to spending my winters south of the equator. Thank you for writing this book. YOU are the man!