This is content archived from our old website. Our new blog is Trendlines.

What are owned, earned & paid media and why do they matter?

No matter the size of your business, embracing digital content marketing and the power of social media can pay big business and revenue growth dividends.

An effective and comprehensive digital marketing strategy will contain elements of ‘owned’, ‘earned’ and ‘paid’ media: each element has its advantages and disadvantages, and all of them are important parts of the greater whole.

So what are the differences, and why do they matter?


Owned media

Any type of web property or channel that you control and is unique to your brand is considered owned media. The most common example is your company’s website, but it also includes blogs and all your social media channels. Essentially, anything that your company publishes itself is owned media.

To use owned media most effectively, it’s helpful to think about channels like social media and blogs as extensions of your website, and all three as extensions of your brand. The more media you own, the more chances you give people to interact with your brand and extend your digital presence. Don’t be wary of new social platforms: embrace them and give your audience every chance to engage. Then, it comes down to delivering content that your audience wants. Do this effectively and your audience will share your content, amplifying your reach and engagement through their authentic endorsement of what you’re saying.

Earned media

Earned media is the digital version of word of mouth. Consider anything that drives consumers to your brand (or other forms of owned media) as earned media. This includes shares, re-posts, mentions, reviews, recommendations, your content being picked up by third-party sites, and content on your brand produced by infleuncers – basically, whenever an individual or business refers to your brand in some way.

Earned media is generally the most valuable to your digital marketing strategy, yet earned media is also the most difficult to achieve. The most effective driving force of earned media is usually a combination of strong organic search engine rankings (SEO), and successful content distribution, including through social channels. If you are ranking highly on the first page of search engines, you are in the best position for your content to receive higher engagement and shares. After that, it comes down once again to delivering worthwhile content. Give your audience a reason to share what you publish, a decision that’s always made on their terms, rarely yours.

One way to successfully develop earned media is through building an influencer program. This involves discovering, and engaging and building relationships with, people who align themselves with, regularly talk in a context with, and gain high engagement with your target audience. They are the people your company really ought to know. See our post Is an influencer marketing program right for your company? for more on influencer programs.

Paid media

As you have no doubt already worked out, paid media refers to anything or anyone a business pays to place media to boost or otherwise support a message. Paid media is a good way to increase exposure in a more-predictable way, and should ideally link to (and complement) your earned and owned media. In digital marketing, paid media usually takes the form of advertising through boosting posts on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as pay-per-click advertising, display ads, site sponsorship, and paid search.

Striking a balance, and the importance of data

A strong digital marketing strategy will exploit owned, earned and paid media an integrated way. The challenge for your brand is finding the right balance between having total autonomy over your digital presence (owned and paid media) and maintaining authenticity and credibility in the eyes of your audience (earned media).

Underpinning everything should be data, preferably in real-time, across social and digital, to tell you what’s performing (and what isn’t), to provide you with ROI measurements, and to direct your engagement activities.

It’s that combination of a balanced social/digital media strategy, speed of response and data that makes a difference to your business growth.

Jack Lo Russo: Jack is Community Engagement Manager at DIGIVIZER.