Owned media, earned media and paid media: What’s the difference?

Laptop representing owned media, earned media and paid mediaUnderstanding the difference between owned media, earned media and paid media will get you a long way in digital marketing.

In this blog, we’ll look at the definitions and differences between owned media, earned media and paid media to help you get a head start on the competition.

Owned media, earned media and paid media defined

Here’s an overview of the three main types of digital marketing media that SMEs can leverage:

1) Owned media

Owned media is content created by you and hosted on a company platform, such as your company blog or social media channels.

This, therefore, gives you almost total control over the type of content you put out, how it’s presented and how accessible it will be over time.

It also ensures that all authority gained through clicks, links and shares is directed back towards one of your platforms, increasing the visibility of your assets.

All of this makes owned media the most organic and authentic means of growing your business using digital marketing.

However, you’ll need to invest time and money into generating this content in-house and promoting it effectively. And, you might need to wait a while before you see the results you’re looking for.

2) Earned media

Earned media is content that discusses your business, but is created by third parties (without payment or instruction) and hosted or promoted via channels you don’t own.

You don’t have to pay to generate earned media – you just have to be interesting! And, because the content doesn’t originate from you, it will probably be seen as more trustworthy than owned or paid media.

Examples of earned media include:

  • Product reviews
  • Social media posts about your products/services
  • Blogs about your products/services
  • News articles featuring your business
  • Influencer mentions

The downside of earned media is that it gives you no control over how your business is presented, how regularly your brand is promoted and how long this content remains active.

One now famous example of the power of earned media involves Donald Trump’s election campaign. According to The New York Times, his campaign generated almost $2bn in earned media – a figure far above that of his rival or any of his predecessors.

3) Paid media

Paid media is content that you pay to promote via third-party channels. These include Google (PPC/paid advertising), social media platforms, blogs/news feeds and social media influencers.

Typically, you’ll create the content in-house, or commission it to a strict brief, giving you control over messaging. You’ll also agree the terms surrounding how your content will be promoted.

By using features such as Facebook Audiences, you can be seriously accurate in terms of targeting your key demographics with promotional content. You can also burrow into the analytics to track the value you’re getting from your promotional efforts. Then, you can adapt them as needed.

The drawback? Well, the clue’s in the name. Paid media is expensive – both in terms of cost-per-click and the expertise you’ll need to get maximum value. That’s why paid media is often used in tandem with owned or earned media.

So, now that you’ve got to grips with the basics of owned media, earned media and paid media, see if you can decide what combination of these approaches will work best for your SME.

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