Digital, luxury, Asia… // Defining paid, earned and owned media.


With the rise in importance of social media and online PR, we’re seeing more companies change their method of budgeting, reporting and investing in media to reflect the types of sites where audiences spend their time online. The trend is towards a review of investments in the 3 main media buckets of earned, shared and paid which each give opportunities to influence customers. None of these media types are new, but what is new is the increasing prominence given to owned and earned media while paid media has always dominated in the past.

It’s a positive move since it poses questions about how best to measure the returns from social media and set the investment at the right level.

My take on the intersection between these new channels is illustrated by this diagram:

The main types of media are:

1. Paid media. Simple. Paid or bought media are media where there is investment to pay for visitors, reach or conversions through search, display ad networks or affiliate marketing. Offline traditional media like print and TV advertising and direct mail remain important accounting for the majority of paid media spend.

2. Earned media. Traditionally, earned media has been the name given to publicity generated through PR invested in targeting influencers to increase awareness about a brand. Of course, it’s still an investment. Earned media also includes word-of-mouth that can be stimulated through viral and social media marketing and includes conversations in social networks, blogs and other communities. It’s useful to think of earned media as developed through different types of partners such as publishers, bloggers and other influencers including customer advocates. Think of earned media as different forms of conversations occurring both online and offline.

3. Owned media. This is media owned by the brand. Online this includes a company’s own websites, blogs, mobile apps or their social presence on Facebook, Linked In or Twitter. Offline owned media may include brochures or retails stores.

It’s useful to think of a company’s own presence as media in the sense that they are an alternative investment to other media and they offer opportunities to promote products using similar ad or editorial formats to other media. It emphasises the need for all organisations to become multi-channel publishers.

You can see on the diagram above that there is overlap between the three different types of media. It is important to note this since achieving this overlap requires integration of campaigns, resources and infrastructure. Content on a content hub or site can be broken down (atomised) and shared between into other media types through widgets powered by APIs such as the Facebook API.

Note that some such as Dave Fleet and David Armano identify company owned social media as a separate channel from owned media, but social media cuts across all three.

Source :

and some other graphs on the subject :

photoEarned owned paid charat

Posted on July 12th, 2011

8 thoughts on “Defining paid, earned and owned media (Piqûre de Rappel)

  1. Dear Hugues, I tend to disagree a bit. I hope you’ll forgive me. Interesting piece although I still believe that the definition is typically one from media agencies, I think it is a smart way to get income from customers and might lead to some interesting research which we all miss. The probem I have with this new definition of media is that it focuses on the media aspect of social media. This implies many things and the most important is that it still leads to think in terms of campaigns and top down communication or community building. I’m not saying you think that way but many might be led to think that way: the media agency will recommend wich media to chose buy or develop, the creative agencies will come with campaign ideas in order to attract, transact, retain and communitize. But the consumer and the customers (advertisers) might get lost and end up hating Facebook like a recent survey showed in the US .

    The other aspect I’m worrying about is that I don’t know what to do with phenomenon like Wall Mart promoting on its home page the products of media agencies’ customers preferred by Wall Mart’s customers ? I understand it’s wallmart’s own media. Can advertisers earn it or do they have to buy it ? Who should handle this ? The marketing guy? The trade guy ? Of course with the help of who ? A guru? A web agency ? A media Agency ?

    I’dont know what to do either with this little movie circulating on the web this morning. It is not paid by Google, so it is earned media for Google+. By watching this earned media piece I wonder where does the concept of earned, owned and paid media help Google in developping and selling their stuff ? How does it help an advertiser ?

    Last but not least, I don’t know what to do in order to handle campaigns in a newspaper like Le Monde where , based on what they plan to do, any smart advertiser could gain earned media. Someone will probably tell me that’s normal business, brands have their PR agency which gets them free pubicity (or is it earned media ?). That one person would be right. Edelman Digital, a PR agency is becoming one of the mots proeminent agency and consultant in the US as far as social media is concerned. All frontiers are blurring and that is what creates a lot of confusion. In order to overcome the problems generated by this confusion and the blurring of frontiers we see concepts arousing from those who want to flag their specificity and fight in order to keep some barriers. Google is a search engine, media agencies are media agencies and PR agencies are PR agencies even if free publicity is earned media and vice versa.

    At the end, let’s confess one thing : social media is not a media. It reflects how brands and companies get woven in to the society and porous to their stakeholders, inside out and outside in. Now, honnestly, I can survive with flags and frontiers but advertisers should beware. They should know that the currency of social media is links whether they are searched or passed. And in order to tight strong links with prospects, fans and customers they need to focus on what is called SCO, social content optimization. This is not a flag. It’s a priority and media agencies should definitely help promoting this because it is what glues the three media Hugues is talking about. Without that glue…it will still be a nice concept but a concept, not a business solution.

  2. Wow, AWESOME post. Spot on to what we do/measure at MavenSocial. We are able to identify and track a client’s paid, earned, and owned media, and measure which is the best marketing channel. It’s nice to see other people out there exploring the same concepts.

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