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.

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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37 Replies to “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!

  17. Hi Tim,

    Starting tomorrow I’ll be taking your challenge of blocking out the news for the next two weeks. It’s such a habit but I caught myself this evening watch a few minutes, remembered your comments and turned it off.

    As for your book, it is outstanding! You are the first person to (properly) point out that it takes time to get back into the flow once it’s broken by an interruption. This is advice that managers everywhere need to accept. They are always quick to do the “well, how long does it take to do X activity?” It’s not a question of how long to do an activity but the time lost while people get back into the flow so they can do their work.

    The book is excellent. I’m already shifting my schedule. Your comment alone about analyzing key times to call people was easily worth the price of the book. I can’t wait to read the next chapter. Have a great week.

    Richard Villasana

  18. That’s wrong Joe:

    You don’t actually have to have the trademark (we call it a trade mark in the UK) registered to get the adverts stopped, if you are using something as a ‘mark’ you can claim ‘unregistered rights’ and they should remove the offending item within a few days.

    The system works if you know how to work the system.

  19. Like simplifying your life, being blissfully uninformed takes balls. You have to be willing to NOT know what’s going on in the world, which some folks are just not willing to do. It’s very much like having the balls to say NO to other things that complicate your life. Some examples people have a hard time saying no to:

    Going into debt over holiday gifts

    Keeping up with the Joneses (whoever they are)

    Opting out of a social commitments just to have some time to yourself.

    It takes balls to be *anything* other than the status quo and good for those who choose to do it, whatever way it manifests.


  20. For a long time I thought I was weird. I never read the newspaper. I hated watching the news. I got a bit of news off the web, but in general, I didn’t pay any attention to the world and the BS the media calls news. Then I started reading books on success. In particular, you, and Jeffrey Gitomer, both practiced what I’d been doing for years. Paying no attention to the “news.” I love it. The news is nothing but depressing, and I don’t need it in my life.

    Thanks for making me realize I’m not crazy, Tim!

  21. I Chose to avoid television at all costs sometime after I graduated high school in 1999. I have been to the movie theater a total of five times since then. I have always been a fan of horror films and murder mysteries – mainly intrigued by the way in which the crimes are solved. Perry Mason, Murder She Wrote, Matlock, etc.

    When I began watching movies and television again (although selectively) the first movie I saw was Hostel. Needless to say it was quite a culture shock. That movie, along with all of the garbage from the media I’ve accumulated over my life has killed my taste for movies, television, horror and… oh heck, it slightly killed my sensitivity to watching people be cut open. The problem with that is now when I see serious wounds in person – things I would be squeamish about when I was a child – no longer affect me.

    I studied criminal justice briefly in college and thanks to the media I can eat a full lunch while watching an autopsy. What a wake-up call for me. Being involved in the area of violence prevention, specifically in school, “media violence” is an issue I’ve had to tackle more times than Paris has put on that horrible pink lipstick. Violence in the media doesn’t directly cause our kids to be violent… but in conjunction with a toxic world filled with other vile influences, it sure can’t be conducive to a healthy way of life.

    I’d watch Paris on TV before I would subject myself to modern day crime media. But in the end I’m sure both would have the same effect on me. *headdesk*

    The saddest part of all is that people in this world are genuinely interested in that Paris/Lindsay Lohan bull.

    I’ve started a “Good News” website to counter the garbage that is out there. The American media focuses only on the negative and whatever drama-of-the-week will boost their ratings. I respect Oprah, Steven Colbert, Bill Mahr, Anderson Cooper, a few other CNN guys whose names I can’t remember and Larry King. That’s about it.

  22. Hi Tim,

    Thank you so much for going ahead and writing your book. It’s exactly what I needed to be reading to get to the next level in my life and business.

    I want to find out if you could share how you went about creating Brain Quicken LLC.

    You mentioned in your book that you researched starting a dietary supplement company and two weeks later you had your first product to ship.

    Would you go into more detail about the process you followed to find the product you wanted to market and how other people could do the same thing.

    I’ve been quite successful of network marketing but for the last 10 months I’ve realized more and more that I don’t want a business that requires my presence but rather has systems that run it and your book just came at the right time.

    Thank you so much for not being a fluff writer.


  23. I’ve been watching Paris Hilton’s BFF. Where do they get hold of these folks? They’re from another world!

  24. Hello…..

    I am the admin of which is Agen Bola and Bola Online that is currently the most reliable and safe in Indonesia too. This site provides a very satisfactory service.

    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? …

  25. Incredible how relevant this blog post still is today, over a decade later!

    It seems as though we have gotten to a point where any debate or free thinking on whatever the media is pushing as the story (and view point) of the week is silenced. Crazy times and scary for the people that believe in an open dialogue of differing beliefs.