Upcoming Issue Highlights
Home Subscribe Advertise Sourcebook Free Product Info Home

Earned, Paid and Owned Media – What Does it All Mean?

Laptop and newspaper

By Sheldon Baker

Non-GMO Project

You may have heard the terms owned media, earned media, and paid media. These are words often cited by marketing and public relations (PR) professionals.

And you have probably heard a PR person (or been that PR person) who has said, “we do not pay for media.” But in truth, all media is paid media, one way or another.

Putting aside the fact that if you work in PR or marketing your brand or client is paying for your services, unless you are working for free out of the goodness of your heart — that is an old argument from the dawn of PR and marketing. Today’s world of hypermedia has seen the convergence of paid and earned media move way beyond this simple thinking.

These days, the blending of earned, owned, and paid media is almost ubiquitous. In order to get more of the right eyes on your content and messaging in a complex media world, marketers need to pay to get attention to their messages both in traditional channels and on social media — that is, unless you develop a supplement for a type of disease that you cannot legally claim it cures or does something similarly momentous in the health and wellness arena

A Little About Media Speak

Before delving into some examples of how marketers are harnessing the evolution of paid, owned, and earned media, it is helpful to understand the meaning of these terms. Here is a quick primer on how they have traditionally been used:

  • Owned Media: This is the media that a brand controls or owns. Your brand’s website, blog, and social media pages fall into this category, along with printed brochures and other collateral materials. When you post something to one of these places you are doing so on media you own, and you call the shots.
  • Earned Media: This refers to the coverage you receive from others — either because they simply wrote about your company and product or because of your PR efforts. Think publicity you have garnered from journalists or broadcast media. Newspaper, television, and radio coverage are examples, as well as mentions in digital media outlets, posts on social media, online reviews, and ratings i.e., on Yelp or Amazon.
  • Paid Media: This typically refers to paid advertising and marketing, sponsorships, display ads online, search engine advertising, social network ads, videos, and advertorials. This is the information generated by your company and paid for in real dollars or in kind.

How These Models Have Evolved

Here are some examples of how the media world has evolved so that these different media types blend in marketing and PR campaigns:

  • You Do Not Own That: Just because you have a Facebook page for your brand and have managed to assemble a sizable following does not mean all your followers will be shown your latest post. This owned media channel has become paid media. If a brand does not frequently pay to boost its posts, Facebook will clamp down on the number of its followers who will be exposed to its organic, owned posts. Sponsor some posts and Facebook will relax its grip and show your subsequent posts to more of your followers. And if you really want to move the needle with engagements — clicks, likes, shares, and comments — pay for some influencer marketing where you compensate other social media posters who have sizable followings to share your posts.
  • Blog it and They May Not Come: The same goes for blog posts on your brand’s website. To really get a message out to your audience, you need to pay to amplify this content on social media beyond your own accounts by enlisting the help of influencer marketing campaigns. Get top influencers in your space to start sharing your wisdom in their own words with their followers on Facebook, Twitter, and on their blogs. Have a great product? Get it into the hands of paid influencers to star on their platforms and in photos with them on their Instagram accounts. And bam, owned media has blended with paid media faster than you can shake a stick.
  • Amplify Your Earned Press Hits: What was once today’s press hit quickly became tomorrow’s fish wrapper. But luckily for PR professionals and the brands they represent, along came the Internet, and yesterday’s news became today’s search result. Finally, thanks to social media, you no longer must wait at all for your target customers to search for you. Pull becomes push as you can push your press hit out in front of more of your audience through the miracle of owned media and paid media. The owned part is your brand’s social media accounts. Go post your press hit in front of your aggregated audience. The paid part can come in the form of boosting your posts directly on the social media platforms through their ad programs and by way of influencer marketing micro-campaigns — which can be even more effective at moving the needle and getting people talking about your earned coverage.

While it is a wonderful, confused, crazy world of owned, earned, paid, viral and organic media, all media is now paid media. The sooner corporate executives embrace this, the wider the net they will cast on behalf of their company and brands.