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

, 11 February 2020

If you are in charge of managing a digital marketing strategy for your business, you are probably familiar with the concepts of earned, paid and owned media. However, if you aren’t a savy marketer these terms may be a bit confusing or even unknown to you.

In the following lines, we will provide you with a simple definition for each term that hopefully will help you to understand what’s the difference between earned, paid and owned media. Besides those differences, we will also see how different content is combined in order to build an effective digital marketing strategy.

What is earned media?

Earned media refers to content that someone creates about your company. Because of that, this is content you don’t have any control over. It could be a review someone wrote about your product, a video featuring your company or the backlinks you earned from other sites.

For example, let’s say you own a language school in Barcelona and someone writes an article about the top 10 language schools in the city. If your school is featured on that list, that would be earned media for your business. By the way, one of the best things about earned media is that it is free. 

What is paid media in digital marketing?

As you can imagine, paid media refers to the content you pay for.

While you keep almost total control on this type of content, you need to have detailed knowledge if you want to do it on your own.

In fact, if you want to get a solid ROI with paid media it would be better to outsource it to an agency or a platform. Even both of them!

Paid media with

Some of the most common paid media channels that marketers use include search ads, affiliate marketing programs and sponsored content.

What is owned media?

Owned media refers to content that you create and you own. This content can be created in-house (your blog or website) or through a third-party platform or provider (your Facebook channel or the video someone created for your business).

What really matters here is the fact that you are in total control of your content.

Owned media allows you to spread information about your company and build your audience. However, it does not have the same impact as an external recommendation, even if this one is sponsored.

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Shared media: a hybrid concept

Apart from earned, paid and owned media, it is worth mentioning shared media. This term refers to social media content that sits in between earned and owned media.

If someone comments on a post you promoted through one of your social media channels, that content becomes shared because it is half earned and half owned. Unlike earned media, which can be obtained from a third-party content (e.g. the article someone wrote about the top 10 schools in Barcelona), shared media focuses on your owned media (e.g. Your Facebook account or your YouTube channel).

Main differences between earned, paid, owned and shared media

Earned media Paid media Owned media Shared media
Control None Almost total Total Shared
Cost Free Paid Paid Free
Platform Third-party Third-party Own Own
Examples Reviews, backlinks, press coverage Google Ads, affiliation programs, sponsored content Blog, website, Facebook account Social media reactions


Using earned, paid and owned media for your marketing strategy

Now that we know the difference between earned, paid and owned media, it is time to answer one simple question: what kind of media is the best for your business? The answer, of course, depends on your own needs. However, the important thing to know is that most companies use a mix of all types of media to leverage their businesses.

In fact, there are many marketing strategies that combine two or more of these levels of content. For example, if you take the article about the top schools in Barcelona (earned media) and post it on your website as a testimonial, it becomes owned media for you. Similarly, if you create a press release (owned media) and pay for its publication (paid media) in order to get people talking about your business (word of mouth) in different platforms (earned media), you are definitely optimizing your marketing strategy with different types of content.

With that being said, and going beyond the differences between earned, paid and owned media, we would like to invite you to diversify your digital marketing strategy and take full advantage of the good that each kind of media can offer to your business. By doing that, you will be definitely boosting your overall marketing efforts.

[bctt tweet=”Using a mix of earned, paid and owned media, will make you take full advantage of the good that each kind of media can offer to your business!” username=”getfluenceEN”]


Finally, if you are looking for an effective and immediate boost that allows you to scale your growth while keeping control on your content, we invite you to try getfluence so you can get the best sponsored articles for your business.

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