The Difference Between Earned, Owned, & Paid Media

paid media

If you have ever worked or still do work within the world of marketing, chances are high that you know the differences that differentiate earned, owned and paid media from one another. As a company that aims to serve small businesses in Austin we’ve found that small business owners to more often that not be on the opposite of the spectrum and not know what these differences are or why they matter. That being the case I thought I’d take a little time out of my Friday night to explain the differences.


Simply put, earned media accounts for brand exposure your company has receive through word-of-mouth. Whether it’s the content of your website or your social media channels, your customer service reputation or community influence, earned media refers to the recognition you receive as a result. This often comes in the form of mentions in the press, reviews  and recommendations on sites such as Yelp and Glassdoor, shares on social media sites, content you post in collaboration with other companies and more. Some of the benefits of earned media are that it’s the most credible (because it comes unsolicited from people not connected to your business), it’s transparent, and its long lasting. However, there are a few negative trade offs such as you not being in control of it. Take a look at the trainwreck that used to be Amy’s Bakery. Negative press killed that business (Not that it wasn’t deserved). Earned media is usually at the top of the funnel for lead conversion and is what gets people initially interested in your company.


Whereas earned media is uncontrollable, owned media is just the opposite. You are in full control. From the graphics you feature to the words you type, the way your company is perceived through your channels in in your hands. The most common types of owned media come in the form of your website and social media pages but may also take shape as blog posts, case studies, whitepapers, etc. The primary goal of owned media is to provide value to leads as they try to find out more about your company without being overly promotional. Think educational content. What do you want people to know about you, your company, and your resources. Because you have complete control you can tailor this however you want, but be wary. Just because you can say whatever you want doesn’t mean you should.  Being hyperbolic or deceptive is a sure-fire way to  lose trust and credibility.


Last but not least is paid media. As is the case with owned media, you are in full control of paid media. Paid media at its roots is a way to promote content and drive exposure for your company and in today’s world of technology  there are a multitude of ways to do this. Paid media also brings you full circle back to earned media. Have you ever seen a funny commercial and then told a friend about it, or even made them watch it? This is a simple example of that conversion. Advertisements on TV, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more are the most obvious examples of paid media, but there are certainly more. It all depends on where your target audience likes to congregate both digitally and in the real world. Besides full control, another benefit of paid media is the immediacy of it. Being able to identify what’s in demand and custom tailor a quick solution for people to latch onto is great. The negatives are that in the growing digital realm where ad blockers are present, a lot of paid media is now treated as unwanted clutter.