Skip to main content

Paid, Owned and Earned Media – The Good, the Bad, and the Together

By November 30, 2016May 4th, 2020Blog, Creative Thoughts

In the world of business communications, media is key. Media are the channels through which we, as marketers, advertisers, and PR professionals, get our name or message out to our audiences; marketing strategies often rely on media to function.

The last decade has seen Media evolve more than it has since the first U.S. paid TV ad aired in 1941.  However, the way that we categorize media has so far remained about the same. When we describe the types of media, we focus on how they function as a channel or how we obtain them. The three main categories that are used to define media are: earned media, paid media, and owned media – owned being a newer player to the arena.  It is important not only to understand what each of these labels entails but also the strengths and weaknesses of each type and how they can be integrated together to reach their full potential.

Paid Media

Paid Media, as the name implies, is the media that is purchased.  In other words, it is advertising. Whether it be sponsorships, display ads, PPC ads, etc., paid media is an important tool for driving exposure.  While paid media does require more of a monetary sacrifice than owned or earned media, it provides an immediacy and scale that the others do not. To clarify, paid media can reach new markets in ways that our other categories of media may not have the capacity to do. The way that you use paid media, or the particular paid media that you use, depends on who your target audience is. For example, if you are selling product that would appeal most to college-aged females, you might pay for advertising space on Instagram or in Collegiate Magazine, rather than spending that money to advertise on more mature medium like the Wall Street Journal. This example exemplifies how paid media can reach larger markets and be controlled – you choose where you put your money, and the message is. In turn, there are some downsides to paid media.

The most obvious downside to paid media is, well, the fact that you have to pay for it. Paid media is often expensive, and it can be challenging for smaller businesses, in particular, to afford. Additionally, it is important to spend wisely when purchasing paid media. It would be a shame to spend a hefty portion of your budget on a banner ad, only for it to get lost in the heavy clutter of the web.  On top of that, because you have control over the message you send about your brand through paid media, consumers might question whether the information you are giving is credible. That credibility is something that you must earn, which can be accomplished through our other media types and methods.

Owned and earned media, while powerful in terms of consumer relations, often rely on paid media to get the ball rolling. If you are working on enhancing your owned media attention but are a small business with a fairly small customer base, paid media can be the green light to generate that traffic, that may aid in obtaining earned media.  After all, you know what they say…you gotta spend money to make money.

Owned Media

Owned Media is the channel for content that your brand controls and creates.  Some examples of owned media include company websites, blogs, and social media pages. By creating owned media, your company provides customers with a way to interact with your brand through content that is unique. In other words, it presents the opportunity for businesses improve relationships with existing customers and cultivate relationships with new prospects. Owned media allows you to reach niche audiences while familiarizing them with your brand personality. While owned media alone most likely won’t yield a bevy of new customers, it will enhance relationships with existing customers, and that should not be undervalued – which we will get into a little more later on. Lastly, through the implementation of various types of owned media, you can boost your brand presence on the web. This can increase your SEM, bettering the probability of people discovering your business, thus promoting lead generation.

It should be noted that, like most things, in the marketing hemisphere (or life for that matter) owned media needs to be done right for it to be effective. For instance, a big company’s blog may bring audiences in, but when they get there if they do not like what they see, if the personality they perceive of your brand is not one they would like to befriend, you may have just lost a customer. No one wants to put in a great deal of time and energy creating and promoting owned media for it to potentially be swept under the rug or disliked; this is the risk that you take when you work in this category.

Some of the risks or things that could be viewed as downsides to owned media are lessened when other categories of media come into play.  As I mentioned before, owned media is very useful for marketing to current customers. While current customers are equally as important as prospective customers, there is a whole other power associated with the combination of the customers we already have and the relationship and loyalty they feel as a result of owned media – we call it word-of-mouth marketing, which can be translated to/executed through earned media.

Earned Media

Earned Media can be closely tied to PR. It is the media that you do not pay for or have much control over, because, for earned media, the media outlet’s customers are the channel.  Social media also plays a huge role in earned media. When somebody writes a Facebook status about how their stays at the Hilton Inn are always the most wonderful experiences, or tweets about their new favorite spot for seafood, the businesses are getting earned media—and because the message is coming from a third party, oftentimes somebody that the audience members know, it is more likely to be trusted than an advertisement.  On top of that, earned media can reach new people and directly generate more traffic to owned media.

However, earned media is not always rainbows and butterflies. Yes, it’s free. And yes, it’s credible. But what if somebody has something not so nice to say? Earned media is almost entirely out of your control, and if somebody is unhappy with your business, they are even more likely to share that information than somebody who is pleased.  So that’s the bad news. However, the good news is that earned media is a result of brand behaviors, and while you cannot control what people are saying you can certainly control your business behaviors and how you respond to that not so friendly post.

Earned media and owned media work hand-in-hand, each feeding into the other to increase the effectiveness. We talked about how owned media does not have as much of an outward growth effect in terms of new customer acquisition, and how earned media plays into that. But, how does owned media help earned media? One example is by providing sharable content. If your businesses current customers check up on your owned media postings and find something that sparks interest, they might just share that for all of their friends to see. Hello new attention!

Knowing the ins and outs of the different types of media, including how they can be integrated together to achieve their highest potential, plays a key role in planning how to best allocate your business’s time and money for marketing. Now, take the power of knowledge and run with it! Your brand is in your hands.

Close Menu


1875 Old Alabama Road
Bldg. 900, Suite 910
Roswell, GA 30076

p | 678.352.7100
f | 770.640.2015