The Media Trio: Paid, Earned, Owned

paid, owned, earned integrated media

It seems since the dawn of the new Internet, “Web 2.0”, everyone is hopping on the digital footprint train. The Internet has grown and changed the world. As Miley would say, “it came in like a wrecking ball” or Godzilla on steroids, crushing the way we once communicated with one another, the way we lived our lives, even the way we would conduct business. Everyone, and everything, is now online.

Keep in mind, not all media is created the same online. Marketers recognize three online media categories, paid, earned and owned. For the most part, these categories are exactly as the sound. Daniel Newman, Forbes contributor, got it right when he said that a company simply couldn’t choose one of the three media platforms. There are differences between them but they all blend into each other in someway. An online marketing plan cannot succeed with one platform alone; it needs a balanced and integrated plan to do so. When a combination of attractive and clean paid efforts are coupled with desirable consumer focused owned content, positive earned media will follow and strengthen the loyalty from consumers and the reputation of your brand.

So what are these three media categories?


Paid media is ad space companies purchase on website, search engines, even on social media sites. They are usually easy to spot with a “sponsored” or “ad” mark on them somewhere. They are used to advertise some type of sale occurring or other incentive to get consumers to click on the ad and bring them to their website.


Earned media occurs when consumers acknowledge a company in some way. This can occur through likes, comments or shares on a social media site or being tagged in a post. It can even happen when consumers check in on their social media sites while at the physical location. It’s word of mouth advertising, only online. Due to its unsolicited nature, this form of media can be both a blessing and a curse. We know word of mouth has the most impact when consumers are making decisions and this is because it’s coming from fellow consumers we can trust because they will generally be unbiased. What do they have to gain from speaking positively about a company? On the flip side, it can also be the most damaging, and for the same reasons. There is high risk, high reward with this media, so be sure to keep a keen eye and handle with care.


Owned media is all media that the company itself own, runs, and creates itself. From the company’s official Facebook page, verified Twitter account, Pinterest board, to its actual website, these channels are controlled by the company. They decide what is posted, when it’s posted and how consumers can engage with it. Owned media is important to use a media hub for all other sources. It’s where consumers can go directly to get specific information about your company. Owned media does take some time to generate a return on your investment but it can be highly effective due to the control you have. Just make sure you content has been optimized for search engines (SEO) and created with your audience in mind by creating a detailed content marketing strategy.

Check out the infographic below which highlights the differences between paid, earned and owned media on social media and how they work together to share the brands story. Also, stay tuned for my next blog post, “How to Create Content Your Audience Actually WANTS to See” to get some tips and tricks on how to create a successful plan to get your target audience following your owned media.

Paid Earned Owned Social Media