Owned Media, Paid Media And Earned Media - Definitions And Examples

First, what do we mean by the term 'Media'?

Just to quickly clarify what we mean by 'media' in this instance. It can be defined as any form of marketing content, including - but not limited to - the following:
  • Online ads - PPC/Banner etc
  • Marketing materials - e-books, infographics etc
  • Social shares/mentions
  • Social ads
  • Offline advertising - magazine, outdoor display etc
  • Catalogues, brochures
  • TV advertising
So, as far as we are concerned here, the term 'media' refers to anything related to both the creation and the promotion of marketing content and materials.

Okay, let's move on and have a closer look at the three types up for discussion here - Owned Media, Paid Media and Earned Media.

Owned Media
A brief overview:

When we talk about Owned Media, we are talking about media that you or your business/organisation. For example, your:
  • Website
  • Blog
  • Mobile apps
  • Brochures
  • Catalogues
What are the benefits of this type of media? 

Perhaps the most obvious benefit here is that you have complete control over this form of media. You have complete autonomy over:
  • How your websites/ads look
  • How you market them
  • What message you want to convey
This is where you build your 'house' - whatever you say goes really. 

Any drawbacks of Owned Media?

The only drawback I can really think of related to Owned Media is reach. Your properties - however great - are almost invisible if you don't market them properly. Sadly, it's not just a case of 'if you build it, they will come'. You need to market your business effectively, which means Owned Media is simply not enough. 

A visual example of owned Media:
An example of owned media
An example of Owned Media - A Blog

Paid Media
A brief overview:

This is pretty self explanatory. It's the kind of media that you wouldn't have unless you paid for it. Think of the following types of advertising:
  • PPC (Pay-per-click) 
  • Banner advertising
  • Magazine advertising
  • Outdoor channel advertising
  • Sponsored posts (not that you should be doing that anyway)
What are the benefits of this type of media? 

Just like with Owned Media, you have a lot of control with regards to what you say and how you say it. Essentially, you are paying for a service that should offer a fair amount of customisation. Over and above that, you also have the following benefit:
  • Reaching potential customers through avenues you do not possess yourself
Any drawbacks of Paid Media?

The most obvious drawback here is cost - some forms of advertising can be extremely expensive. Also, you can't always be sure that they work, which brings us onto the second drawback - potential waste. An ad campaign can go horribly wrong if not planned properly (that wont happen to you of course if you plan properly).

A visual example of Paid Media:
An example of paid media, the 'sponsored' images (paid ads)

Earned Media
A brief overview:

This type of media can't be created or paid for (no matter what a Fiverr seller may tell you) - as it's name suggests, it's earned. Earned Media covers things like:
  • Retweets
  • Shares
  • Blog posts about your product or service
  • Newspaper articles written about you (non solicited/paid for)
So, although you can influence this process to some extent by creating excellent content, you can't make someone share it on your behalf in with their own free will. Therefore, if they do, it's called 'Earned Media'.

What are the benefits of earned media?

The benefits of Earned Media are substantial:
  • First, it's free - true earned media is just like word of mouth advertising, it's freely given
  • Second, it carries more weight - potential customers trust a friends opinion/recommendation more than they do your online banner ads
  • Third, they expand your reach through social networks, blog audiences etc 
As you can see, you really want to leverage this form of media as much as you possibly can.

Any drawbacks of Earned Media?

The only real drawback I can see here is that you can't control it. You can't tell someone what to say about your business (if you do, it's not earned media) so you lose control of the message. But maybe that's a good thing - as I said above, people will trust their friends' voice more than yours. 

A visual example of Earned Media:
An example of earned media
An example of Earned Media, a RT with compliment about an article
In Sum

The 3 forms of media discussed above are all different, but they should really all exist together. In a well planned marketing strategy, you should benefit from all 3.

Here's a perfect example of them working together for you:
  • You use PPC to get potential customers to your website (paid media)
  • The customer then reads through your website and blog (owned media) before making a purchase
  • The customer loves your product so much they tell all they're Facebook friends about it (earned media)
Hope all of that made sense, although let me know if you have any questions or additions.

Thanks for reading,

Alan MacDougall

Got a nagging marketing question? Ask me here.

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Revenue Builder is a small business marketing strategy advice blog, written to help small business owners and startups maximise sales revenue.