The Differences Between Owned, Earned and Paid Media

In the online advertising world, you may have come across the concepts of earned, owned and paid media. These are three ways we define the way in which you reach customers with your content online, and you should think about them in conjunction with one another, each of them as important as the next.

Although just a brief summary of each type, here’s an explanation of each that will help you understand how you can leverage these types of media to form a comprehensive digital marketing strategy.

Owned Media

Owned media is digital property that you own and control, and that is unique to your company. This could include your website, but your content marketing efforts (blogs, infographics, whitepapers) are all considered owned media.

Since your social media presence is within your control and also is something you have ownership over, your social channels and pages are also considered owned media.

Generally, owned media is beneficial to your business as it is within your control, it lasts forever (for example, a blog will be there forever to drive traffic to your site, and promote your expertise), it’s the most cost-effective and it drives your earned media growth.

The only real downside of owned media is that it takes time to build. If you’re starting out and needs leads, sitting and writing blogs can seem like a painful process, particularly if you’re not able to pay the bills.

Earned Media

Earned media is the best type of advertisement for your business, because it’s the most genuine and it drives engagement. I’ve often heard it described as the “word of mouth of the web”, and that seems to sum it up well. Earned media is the behaviour of your audience; shares, mentions, reposts, reviews, recommendations. It could also be a publisher site picking up and re-publishing your blog to their audience.

I often say that a website is wasteful if you don’t have resources to keep updating the site with new content and give your potential customers not only a reason to visit, but the chance to find your site (content marketing is excellent for ranking on Google and your SEO).

Whether this is your blog posts, infographic, video, press release, webinar or e-book, earned media is the most credible as it’s your audience engaging and sharing your content, which is the most credible form of advertisement (recommendations on Facebook, as an example, would be seen as more genuine that a case study on your website).

Paid Media

Paid media are display advertisements, pay-per-click ads, anything that you have to pay for online to drive engagement. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn offer great advertisement platforms in order to boost your content, as well as your website. Google Ads are another examples of paid media, since they drive traffic to your website, which is part of your owned media.

Ultimately, paid media works best in conjunction with owned media, since the more owned media you have, the more your customers are likely to resonate with it, share it across social media or republish it on their site, which then turns into earned media.


It may sound confusing, but think of it in simple terms like this:
Owned media is your website, your blogs, social media profiles, essentially any online marketing material that you own.
Earned media is your audience, influencers, publishers in your industry sharing your content among themselves, or recommending your service.
Paid media is the advertisement platforms in which you pay to advertise your owned media, to drive engagement with your audience.

Our tips to get most out of each type of online marketing material:

Put owned media first. This should be your top priority. Content marketing, putting together a good website, producing blogs and enhancing your social media presence.

Generally, once your owned media is effective and efficient, you should concentrate on paid media. This could be Google Ads, Facebook Ads (or any Pay-Per-Click advertising) or Digital Display Advertisement.

Paid media will then drive engagement to your owned media, which essentially turn them into earned media. There are other ways to drive earned media, but using paid advertising to drive engagement to your content is the most effective. Other ways include reaching out to influencers within your industry (and getting them to share your content), a strng SEO strategy to ensure that your ranking strong on organic searches on Google and having a huge variety of quality content that is relevant to your target audience.