How Do You Differentiate Between Paid, Earned and Owned Media?

types of mediaMedia. It’s such an ambiguous term these days. To many, especially those millennials and Gen Z’ers, it means social media. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. You name it. To others, media means the news. You know, what they see when flicking on the TV at 6 a.m. before work; or for those really traditional folks, what they read after picking up that stack of paper from their driveway each morning. The point is – media means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. But that doesn’t change the fact that media is really categorized into three different types – paid, earned and owned. Today, there seems to be a lot of crossover, confusion, and even lack of knowledge regarding these topics, so I’m going to break it down into simple terms.

  • Paid – this is when you put your money where your mouth is. Paid media – in layman’s terms – is advertising. But this no longer means slapping a vinyl on a highway billboard; today, there are a lot of different ways marketers and businesses are advertising. This can include anything from social media advertising (boosting posts), or Google’s PPC (pay per click) model. Paid media is effective in that it can target and reach specific, mass audiences, but it is expensive, and consumers know you’re doing just that – paying for it.
  • Earned ­– my personal favorite. Earned media is distributed content picked up because of genuine interest. Did an editor cover your news release? Earned. Was your personal Twitter post retweeted? Congrats – you earned it! Traditionally, earned content would involve public relations – pitching an editor with some exciting news in anticipation they will be interested in covering it. But in a growing digital world, shared content through social platforms is considered earned. This type of media of course is more difficult to obtain, but it is the most trusted form of media (and, in my opinion, the most rewarding).
  • Owned – have your “own” social media platform? Write a recent blog post like the one you’re reading now? You own media – yes, it’s yours. Any time you create something and use it to produce your own messaging, that belongs to you. Owned media is valuable in that you can choose whatever it is you want to write about, share or create, but be weary because it is time consuming: even the process of building a following on your blog or social account can be a long road, and consumers are slower to trust this form of media.

While all three types of media are different, they are very frequently used in conjunction with each other. And often times they are most effective when used together. For example, brands can have their own social accounts (owned media) and boost their content (paid media). Additionally, earned media can be obtained through a paid post if that post is shared. A strong marketing campaign will incorporate all three forms of media to work together to enhance brand awareness, leading to ROI.