What’s the difference between owned, earned and paid media?

In a digital world the lines between owned, earned and paid media can be blurred. We take a look at the differences between these key marketing channels.

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If there is one thing the COVID-19 pandemic has taught businesses, it’s the importance of having a well thought out digital marketing strategy. As a result, businesses are having to ensure that their digital marketing activity encompasses a variety of different strategies. Content marketing should be a primary driver of most companies’ online marketing activity, however, finding the perfect type of media for your industry can be more difficult. 

The different types of media are often grouped into three main categories; owned, earned, and paid, each of which has its own benefits. These types of media are nothing new, however, in the digital world it is important to understand the difference and how they fit into a digital marketing campaign.

So, what is the difference between each type of media?

What is owned media?

Simply, owned media is anything that is owned by the brand. This included their own website, blog, any social media accounts, or even mobile apps. From an offline perspective, this could include physical stores or brochures. 

What is earned media?

Earned media is the name that is given to any publicity that has been gained through external influencers in order to boost brand awareness. This can include anything from word of mouth promotion to media going viral on social media, or working with external blogs or communities. In simplest terms, earned media is different partnerships with publishers, bloggers, influencers etc. 

What is paid media?

Also known as bought media, paid media includes anything where investment is paid to gain visitors, boost reach, or increase engagement. In the online world, this includes affiliate marketing or displays ads, while offline it covers things such as print or TV advertising. 

How do earned, owned and paid media overlap?

It’s obvious to see that each of these types of media provides a wide variety of channels for digital marketers to make the most of, however, they don’t always fit neatly into one category. There is a large overlap between each media type, especially in the digital world we are living in. This overlap is important for digital marketers to understand as it helps to create a multichannel marketing strategy, which requires the integration of a variety of resources. An example of this crossover is paid for content placement on an external blog. In this circumstance the content is earned media as the publicity has been gained through an external source. However, it also falls under the paid media category as a financial transaction has taken place to secure the placement.  

Below is a top level overview of how each type of media can blend into each other, especially when it comes to a comprehensive campaign.

Understanding what type of media is best for you

It is important to understand which form of media is best suited for your brand and digital marketing campaign. In an ideal world, a full scale marketing campaign will include a variety of all forms of media, however, this isn’t always achievable due to time and resources available. 

Like any marketing campaign, it is absolutely vital to ensure that your end goals and objectives are clear and defined before moving forward. Not only will this ensure that you are utilising the most appropriate channels to reach your goals, but it will also help when selling the idea to internal colleagues and any external stakeholders. Furthermore, if you require additional budget throughout the campaign, having clear justification and planning will help to explain this decision. 

Ultimately, the decision as to which forms of media are best for your strategy is something that will vary depending on the campaign and end goals. The best option is to utilise all forms of media, and the crossover between the three, however, it all comes down to resources available.

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