What’s the Difference Between Earned, Paid, and Owned Media?

earned vs paid mediaUpdated June 28, 2023

Building your brand and overall online presence can be hard, which is why many marketers turn to paying for media placements instead of relying on organically earned spots. Let’s take a look at some of the differences between earned and paid.

Defining the Various Types of Media

What Is Earned Media?

Earned media is when you receive mentions, placements, or rankings all organically through the work you do. This form of media helps introduce you to new leads and can fuel the top of your sales funnel. In most cases, this is the result of aspects you can control, such as content on your website, social media posts, and more.

Earned media is every marketer’s dream, but it always isn’t easy. It’s been reported that 25-40% of all lead generation and traffic come from earned media, so it definitely shows why this is one of the leading forms of marketing.

Key Benefit: Usually more cost-friendly in the long term

What Is Paid Media?

Paid media, on the other hand, is any type of media placement that included an exchange of money at any point, whether you paid to sponsor a webinar, ran ads on Facebook, or even rented out a billboard. It is a type of media placement that you didn’t earn organically, and one that you have some level of control over.

With paid media, you can track results and ensure that your content is reaching the audience you desire. While it opens doors to a new audience, you’ll want to be sure there is a comprehensive strategy in place when running paid media in order to get a positive return on your investment. Strong tactics are important before committing to any sort of budget.

Key Benefit: Usually has quicker results

What Is Owned Media?

While earned and paid media is typically what is discussed, there is another aspect that needs to be brought up and that is owned media. This is any property on the web that you can control and is unique to your own brand. These channels, such as your social media or blog content, are extensions of your website, giving you opportunities to extend your brand presence in the digital world.

Examples of owned media include a company’s website, blogs, or mobile apps. Offline owned media may also include physical retail stores or marketing materials such as brochures.

Key Benefit: Full creative control over the content

Why Earned Media’s Lack of Control Can Be a Good Thing

While some may be wary of earned media because they cannot control how their brand or product will be portrayed, these aspects can actually help your company. This is because earned media can help build trust in the consumer because it is content not distributed by the brand itself; it’s very similar to how users look to reviews on Google Business Profiles for insights on a business.

This is essentially “word of mouth,” with influencers or mainstream media showcasing your brand. This helps to become a testament to your own brand, and considering 78% of consumers are influenced by social media, this is a step in the right direction.

5 Ways to Get Earned Media Placements


1. Publish Good Content

The easiest way to obtain earned media is to acquire organic links and mentions from having content on your site that others will 1) find useful and 2) want to link to. This can come from writing helpful posts on your site such as “10 Tools You Need in Your Garden This Summer” – that features a product of yours – or doing really great SEO on your product pages so they can be found in search engines.

2. Be Active on Social Media

Sixty-three percent of adults online actively talk about products or services, making it vital to get your brand into the conversation. This one might seem obvious, but be sure to share your stuff on social! And don’t be afraid to tag different accounts that are relevant and might be willing to share your posts as well.

Also, don’t forget about social media sites outside of Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter, such as Reddit and Pinterest, because they can get you traffic too! One of the platforms that creates a lot of buzz in earned media is Instagram. This platform alone generates 95 million posts per day!

Social media is becoming a common research tool to users before they make their decision on whether or not to purchase a product or choose a service from a company. Eighty-one percent of people read what others have posted online about these products, making it that much more important to leave a lasting impression on your social platforms.

3. Write Press Releases

If you publish a press release on your website, you can then also send it out to local TV stations, national and local news sites, niche publications, and more to see if you can get more coverage. Depending on how newsworthy your piece is, you might get some great hits! There are approximately 2.4 billion brand-related conversations every day in the United States, and with the help of pushing your own press releases, you could be part of that mix too.

4. Become a Source for Journalists

Did you know there are ways you can obtain earned media by responding to journalists directly? With the help of sites such as HARO and others, along with newcomers like Qwoted and Terkel, you have the opportunity to get earned media that is under your control!

5. Become Newsworthy

One of the easiest ways to get more mentions and visibility is to do something that websites, news stations, and other outlets will want to write about. A great example that I heard about recently was Columbus-based ice-cream brand Jeni’s collaborating with Warner Bros., capitalizing on the popularity of the series Ted Lasso by creating a new flavor.

Now, we know not every brand can work with Warner Bros., but this should give you some ideas on what other companies do to get in the news.

Pro tip: The more charitable it is, the more likely it will get picked up.

Successfully Integrate Your Media Strategies

After reading about these methods of media acquisition, you can see that there are key benefits to each. Finding a balanced approach may be a good idea to start with so you can decipher which works best to meet your goals.

A popular tactic typically includes planning content on a hub and having it shared into the various types of media. You can then take a deeper look at what is valuable and leading to more results. Finding the value of the investment and reviewing the effectiveness of existing tactics can help you consider your future plans.

Setting clear marketing goals is important, and it can help you prepare for when you reach out to agencies or news outlets. This way you can plan your media activity and discover opportunities in which your company can take full advantage of.

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Sarah Blocksidge

About the Author

Sarah Blocksidge

Sarah is the Marketing Director at Sixth City Marketing and has been with the company since 2016. Her main role is to attract more B2B clients for the company. Over the years, she has been mentioned on HubSpot, Content Marketing Institute, Fast Company, Mashable, and many other notable sites.

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