What is Paid, Earned, and Owned Media? Ultimate Guide for 2024

Beth Bagley
April 10, 2024
What is Paid, Earned, and Owned Media? Ultimate Guide for 2024

Navigating the many available media types is becoming an increasingly important part of any marketing strategy. Understanding the distinctions between paid, earned, and owned media in particular is essential for crafting effective strategies. These three media types serve as the pillars of a comprehensive marketing approach, each offering unique advantages and opportunities for growth and engagement. 

To achieve a well-rounded marketing strategy, it’s important to incorporate all three types of media as they each contribute to building a brand’s presence in different ways. While paid media can ensure targeted reach, owned media allows for controlled communication and earned media lends authenticity through organic endorsement. Together, they create a dynamic marketing ecosystem that can adapt to changing market conditions and consumer behaviors. 

What Is Paid Media?

As the name suggests, paid media refers to any marketing effort that requires payment to place your brand in front of your target audience. It’s a simple, yet effective, way for businesses to promote their services and products through sponsored content or advertising. Examples of paid media include:

  • Television and radio commercials
  • Print advertisements in newspapers and magazines
  • Online ads like banner and display ads
  • Social media ads on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter
  • Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising on search engines like Google and Bing
  • Sponsored content on websites or blogs

Paid media is great for generating quick visibility and brand awareness, as well as reaching specific demographics with advanced targeting options. However, it can also be expensive with costs continuing to skyrocket, especially for high-competition keywords. Additionally, overexposure to ads can lead to consumers ignoring them. That’s why relying on paid media alone can be risky. 

Types of Paid Media Channels

There are a few different types of channels that paid media utilizes. For example: 

  • Social media ads. Ads on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn can be targeted based on user demographics and interests.
  • PPC. Ads that appear in search engine results are charged per click. Google Ads is a prime example.
  • Display ads. These include banner or video ads on websites within an ad network like Google Display Network.
  • Sponsored content. This refers to content that looks like regular articles or posts but is paid for by an advertiser.
  • Influencer marketing. Paying influencers to promote products or services to their followers is another form of paid media.

Best Practices for Maximizing Paid Media Impact

Targeting strategies are a large part of maximizing paid media, with data and analytics being used to understand the audience better. This knowledge allows organizations to customize their campaigns to fit the audience’s preferences and behaviors. Creating engaging and relevant content is also essential, as it needs to resonate with the target audience to boost ad effectiveness. 

That’s where monitoring campaign performance comes in. Metrics such as click-through rate (CTR), conversion rate, and return on ad spend (ROAS) are used to measure the efficacy of the campaigns. This helps companies continually refine and improve their marketing strategy for optimal results. 

What Is Owned Media?

Owned media encompasses all of the content channels that a company controls and can use to publish its content directly. This includes websites, blogs, social media accounts, and email newsletters. Unlike paid or earned media, owned media is completely under the brand’s control, from the creation to the distribution of content. This control allows brands to consistently present their message and brand identity over time, making it a fundamental part of building a long-term relationship with the audience. 

Key Owned Media Channels

Of course, not all channels hold the same influence. The main ones to remember are:

  • Website. The central hub for a brand’s online presence offers complete control over the message and user experience. 
  • Blog. This platform is ideal for sharing in-depth articles and insights related to the brand’s industry, which can help establish authority and drive organic search traffic. 
  • Social media. These include profiles and pages on platforms such as Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram where brands can publish content and—most importantly—interact directly with their audience.
  • Email newsletters. This is a direct communication channel for sending targeted content, updates, and offers to subscribers who have opted in. 

Creating a Compelling Owned Media Strategy

A strong owned media strategy boils down to three parts: making content, connecting with the audience, and tracking results. Launching a media brand is a strategy we highly recommend pursuing when looking to up your owned media game. 

Learn more about media brands and why B2B marketers need to take advantage of this content structure. 

What Is Earned Media?

In the most simple terms, earned media is the exposure a brand receives through word-of-mouth and organic media coverage. Essentially, it’s what the brand earns by providing quality products and services. Unlike paid media, which is bought, or owned media, which is created by the brand itself, earned media is voluntarily given by third parties. It can be the result of good public relations, high-quality services, or positive customer experiences. 

Your company can generate earned media by creating memorable experiences that customers want to share or offering superior products that garner positive recommendations. Even producing content that resonates with the audience and participating in community events (or social causes) can help you acquire earned media. 

Benefits of Earned Media

When your brand receives earned media, you can expect several benefits, including: 

  • Credibility. Earned media often carries more trust and credibility than paid or owned media because it comes from third-party endorsements. 
  • Extended reach. You can go beyond the brand’s existing audience with earned media, reaching new potential customers through shares and mentions. 
  • SEO benefits. Earned media often increases online visibility and improves search engine rankings through backlinks and mentions. 

Earned Media Strategies

Effective earned media strategies involve several key actions. Public Relations (PR) focuses on active engagement with the media and influencers to secure coverage and mentions in news outlets and industry publications. Influencer partnerships are also important as they involve collaboration with individuals who can authentically promote the brand to their followers. Additionally, encouraging user-generated content (UGC) plays a crucial role; this entails motivating customers to share their own experiences with the brand through reviews or social media posts, which can then be repurposed in the brand’s marketing efforts.

Synergizing Paid, Earned, and Owned Media

Integrating all three media types involved creating a unified and consistent marketing strategy that leverages the strengths of each type. This approach ensures that all forms of media work together to achieve marketing objectives by amplifying the brand message and reaching a broader audience. 

For example, a brand might use its owned media channels to produce and share high-quality content about upcoming trends in the industry. This content then becomes the basis for paid media campaigns, driving additional traffic and engagement. As the content gains traction, it generates earned media in the form of shares and reviews, further amplifying the brand’s reach and credibility. 

Measuring Success Across All Media Types

To effectively measure the success of an integrated media strategy, it's important to track Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) across paid, earned, and owned media. Using analytics tools, brands can assess the performance of each media type and adjust strategies based on data-driven insights. Consider tracking the following KPIs. 

  • For paid media: Conversion rates, ROAS, and CTR. 
  • For earned media: Social shares, media mentions, sentiment analysis, and backlinks. 
  • For owned media: Website traffic, time spent on site, content engagement metrics, and subscriber growth. 

Analytics tools like Google Analytics can provide comprehensive data across all media types. Regularly reviewing these metrics allows you to refine your approach for better results.

Similarities and Differences

Paid media offers high control and immediate reach but incurs direct costs, potentially yielding a quick but costly impact. Earned media often costs less financially but requires time and effort to build trust and influence, leading to potentially high but unpredictable impact. Owned media, on the other hand, provides complete control with minimal direct costs, but its impact grows gradually, depending on content quality and audience engagement. Each type has distinct advantages: paid media for quick reach, earned media for credibility, and owned media for long-term, cost-effective brand building.

Case Studies: Companies Excelling in Media Integration

Known for its comprehensive media strategy, Coca Cola effectively integrates paid, earned, and owned media. Their paid media campaigns are iconic, driving immediate brand recognition and sales. They leverage earned media through social responsibility initiatives and partnerships, generating positive press and customer advocacy. Their owned media, including websites and social platforms, consistently engage audiences with compelling content and community building.

Airbnb's approach to media integration has transformed the travel industry. Their paid media strategy smartly targets potential travelers with personalized ads. Earned media plays a crucial role in Airbnb’s success, with user reviews and word-of-mouth driving trust and adoption. Their owned media, including the platform itself and associated blogs, offer valuable travel insights and community stories, enhancing user engagement and brand loyalty.

Both of these companies demonstrate that a balanced and integrated approach to using paid, earned, and owned media can lead to substantial brand growth and sustained success over time. 

Future Trends in Paid, Earned, and Owned Media

As paid media becomes costlier and more saturated, brands will likely invest more in creating compelling owned media that stands out, fostering direct engagement and loyalty. Earned media will evolve through influencer and customer-driven content, emphasizing authenticity and community-driven narratives. Technology will play a key role, with AI and data analytics enhancing personalization and effectiveness across all media types. Consequently, the integration of these media types will be crucial for businesses looking to resonate with increasingly discerning audiences.

Enhancing Your B2B Marketing Strategy with Paid, Earned, and Owned Media

If you are a B2B marketer looking to improve your marketing strategy, we recommend starting with owned media. Investing in creating content that cuts through the noise of PPC, sponsorships, and other thinly-veiled sales pitches is way more cost-effective than paid media alone, and is what is most likely to get you earned media.

The most efficient way to revamp your owned media strategy is to launch a media brand.

A media brand is an entity separate from your corporate brand. This is where you will post all your thought leadership content and really connect with your audience. Your audience will love it because they won’t feel like they’re being constantly sold to, and you will love it because demand generation will skyrocket. 

How will housing your content under another brand make demand take off?

Well, since only 3% of your target audience is ready to buy, it is important to create content that keeps the other 97% engaged. Once the 97% is in-market, they are going to buy from the company their favorite content creators work for because they know your corporate brand is run by people who know their stuff. 

Interested? We thought so. Level up your B2B marketing and start a media brand with Sweet Fish. 

FAQs About Paid, Earned, and Owned Media

Is SEO considered paid, earned, or owned media?

SEO is primarily associated with owned media because it involves optimizing a brand’s owned content to improve organic search rankings. 

Can social media be classified as earned or owned media?

Social media can be both owned and earned media. Owned media encompasses the content that a brand creates and posts on its social media profiles. Earned media comes into play when users share the brand's content or engage with it in a way that extends its reach organically, without the brand's direct involvement or financial expenditure.

How do influencers fit into these media categories?

Influencers primarily fit into the earned and paid media categories, depending on the nature of their collaboration with the brand. If a brand pays an influencer for promotion, it falls under paid media. However, if influencers share their genuine love for a brand or product without compensation, it is considered earned media.