Through the Spyglass


Paid, Earned, and Owned Media: Covering Your Bases

In Internet marketing, there are three major areas a brand needs to think about: paid, earned, and owned media. Many brands think that as long as they have their owned media in order, or perhaps owned and paid, then they should be fine. But if a brand doesn't keep an eye on all three areas, then unseen problems can occur, creating long-lasting challenges.

What are these three media categories and why should your brand stay on top of each? Let's discuss.

Image Credit: Gavin Llewellyn Image Credit: Gavin Llewellyn


Owned media is any type of media that your brand manages completely. Think of it like retail locations. You decide the furniture, the signage, the music—the entire experience within that contained environment.  Some Internet equivalents of this are your website and email campaigns, among others. You determine the branding, the delivery, the user experience, and so on. It's all tightly controlled by your marketing team.


Paid media, as you might guess, is anything you're paying for. Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising is paid media. Sponsored content with online publishers is paid media. You are still controlling the branding and the messaging, but you're utilizing monetary resources to boost your reach and exposure.


Earned media is something that brands have only in recent years recognized that they need to manage as well. Social media, influencer marketing, social sentiment, and online mentions are all earned media. While you control the information in your social media profiles, you can't control what people say about you on social media. Therefore, this area needs a bit of finesse to manage effectively. 

It's not enough to handle one area particularly well—whether it's paid, earned, or owned. Because each impacts the other, and the lines blur between them, each requires special attention. For instance, social media can cross over between all three categories. 

Let's look at Facebook as an example. Your Facebook profile is owned by your brand. You manage the profile images, the links to your website, and the message in the description. But if you allow customers to post comments on your page (which you should!), then those comments and engagement are earned media. Then if you boost your posts through advertising (again, something you should do), you are moving into the paid media category.

Each Is Distinct But There is Overlap

But while many marketing activities flow between the three media categories, marketers must remember the distinctions and handle situations according to their unique traits. You shouldn't treat Facebook pages as owned entirely because if you delete feedback from customers, you will likely incite backlash. Further, if you don't boost your social media posts through paid advertising, then your audience will probably miss them.

Now think about native advertising. Let's say you partner with an online publisher and they write an article about your company. Or you create the content and deliver it to the online publisher. In either case, you essentially have paid media that will encourage earned media through online sharing of the article and comments from readers.

Marketers need to keep the big picture in mind. Think about how each marketing tactic you utilize will influence other efforts. Remembering this will prevent you from being blindsided by the ripple effect. Members of your marketing team need to keep each other informed so that they can support each other through paid, earned, and owned media campaigns. Use all the resources at your disposal for the best possible impact among your consumer base.