Understanding Paid, Owned and Earned Media

There’s a good chance you often hear these terms and may be a tad confused as to the differences and similarities.  Here’s a refresher of the three types of media in the world of marketing. 

Paid Media
Owned Media
Earned Media
Almost total control Total control No control
Paid Paid Free
Third-party platform(s)
Own platform Third-party platform(s)
Google Ads (PPC), paid social, sponsored content, Print ads Website, retail store(s), social media channels Reviews, social media reactions, shares

Paid Media

Paid media is all of the advertising you pay for.  This includes: 

  • Television ads
  • Print ads (magazines, newspapers, etc)
  • Display ads
  • Paid search ads
  • Sponsored social media posts (Twitter and Instagram)
  • Promoted posts on Facebook

There are numerous ways to drive traffic to your ‘owned media’ properties and anything you’ve paid for to do so, is paid media.  The paid media audience is typically made up of strangers.

Owned Media

Owned media include any of the properties that belong to you, your business, and the brand you control.  This includes:

  • Your website
  • Blogs
  • Retails stores (online and offline)
  • All social media channels 
  • Apps
  • Brochures
  • Magazines 

The relevance, quality, and persuasiveness of these properties will determine whether or not the strangers sent to your owned media from your paid media, will become customers.  The overall strength of these will eventually drive your ‘earned media.’

Earned Media

Earned media is the best kind.  It’s the free publicity from the fans you gain from your paid and owned media.  It may be your catchy online jingle, a creative online video, your continuous Twitter engagement, or your e-commerce expertise.  When your content is good enough to share, earned media is born.  This includes:

  • Facebook likes
  • Retweets 
  • YouTube comments
  • Shares
  • Blogger engagement 
  • Online reviews
  • Word of mouth

Unlike paid or owned media, you have very little control over earned media.  That said, the more you put into your paid or owned media, the better chance you have of your fans growing your earned media presence.  

Where Does SEO Fit into These Categories?

A strong SEO strategy should be a part of your online ‘owned media’ properties.  SEO will help your site rank higher, which will further drive possible ‘fans’ to your website.  The more these fans share your incredible content and your work is being featured all over social media channels in an earned capacity, the more they are doing your SEO’s job in driving traffic to your site.  

SEO lies in the space between owned and earned media.  Regardless, the results are the same.  While often paid leads to owned leads to earned, sometimes paid can lead straight to earned.  The important part is that each of the three types of media are vital to gaining knowledge of your business, and engaging ‘fans.’