Paid, owned and earned media

Media is often divided into three categories: paid, owned and earned. Each of them is an opportunity to influence potential customers, but there are positives and negatives to each of them. Here’s the lowdown on the digital side.

Paid media

Quite simply, this is the media you pay for. This promotional media can take the form of ads (search or display), or paid influencer marketing. Effects of paid media are pretty instant – it can drive your website traffic up quickly, as well as contributing to longer-term brand building.

However, it can add up pretty quickly too, especially without a good strategy in place. Being clear on what you want to achieve, monitoring performance and making regular incremental improvements are all key to making paid media work for you.


Owned media

This is the media that you have immediate control over, that you don’t pay for. Your website, your blog, your social media channels, email marketing, videos and podcasts.

Because you control it, you can say what you like… but will people want to read, watch or listen to it? While you’re not paying for it per se, it does take an investment of resources to keep your owned media fresh, relevant, and ensure that you’re engaging your target audience.


Earned media

Earned is the media that is often credited with being the most valuable – or damaging – and the one you have the least control over. It includes reviews, media coverage, social shares and mentions, and influencer marketing (not paid).

You can see in the graphic above that there are some elements that fit in the crossover points between the three types of media – for example, your SEO traffic comes via your owned media, but you’ve also earned it by targeting relevant keywords that your audience is searching for.


Balancing paid, owned and earned media

At the centre of these three should sit your strategy. How will you leverage these three routes to your customers, how will you engage them and what are they most likely to respond to?

As earned media is the most trusted and hardest to generate, you should always bear it in mind. Any part of your organisation can have a hand in getting people talking about your business… for the right or wrong reasons.