Earned vs. Owned vs. Paid Media

I’ve been seeing “earned media,” “owned media,” and “paid media” in a lot of the industry blogs and articles I read. I had a vague notion about what each of these terms meant, but not a clear definition about how they differed.

So, like anyone these days, I turned to trusty Google and stumbled upon this blog post from Forrester explaining exactly what I was looking for. Though it was published in 2009, it gives a great overview of Earned vs. Owned vs. Paid Media.

Owned vs Paid vs Earned Media

Earned Media

In a broad, general sense, earned media can be thought of as free publicity. This can be generated via word of mouth or when something you produce (a blog, a video, an infographic) goes viral (social media channels like Twitter are usually the drivers). What’s great about earned media? It’s often seen as a credible source of advertisement or endorsement–an authentic seal of approval from members of your target audience. What’s bad about earned media? It can also be a seal of disapproval. Companies have no control over the message, be it good or bad.

Owned Media

Owned media refers to the media channels that a company controls and owns. A company website, blog, Facebook or Twitter account are all examples of owned media. Owned media gives companies more control over the messages they broadcast to their audiences, but can be comparatively labor intensive, cost intensive, and time intensive. And, the messaging can be seen as less authentic. This content is coming from the company itself and audiences may be wary that it serves just a promotional, rather than educational, purpose. Which, of course is the reason why companies want to get into these media channels. But, readers and buyers are more savvy now and can find the information they want when they want it. If your content doesn’t serve their needs, they’ll bounce away to another site.

Paid Media

Paid media is exactly that–what a company pays for to get exposure in that chosen media channel. Examples of paid media include: display ads, banner ads, or sponsorships. The good about paid media? A company can easily control and scale the messaging, and this messaging can also reach a broad audience immediately. The bad? With all the noise and bells and whistles that are populating the web, paid advertisements can be annoying and ignored.

The best strategy? Understand your business, your goals, and how whatever media channel you choose can help meet those goals. Maybe it’s a mix or maybe it’s only one. But, I think the best way to see results is to know your business and where you want to go with it. Then, don’t choose the channel just because it’s the latest trend or you see everyone else doing it; choose the channel that will help you get where you want to be.

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