What is the difference between paid, owned and earned media?

March 14, 2019

Paid Media

Paid media refers to external marketing efforts that involve a paid placement. It’s the most straightforward. This can be either online or offline. Examples of paid media include things like radio, TV, Facebook ads, social media influencers, etc.

It can serve as a tactic to attract people to your owned media (website, email subscription, etc) or to create earned media (social sharing, press, word-of-mouth, etc).

Owned Media

Owned media is defined as communication channels that are within one’s control, such as websites, blogs, or email. These are opportunities to reach current or new customers without having to pay for it.

  • Email marketing campaigns such as company newsletters.
  • Blogs and other owned content. Content marketing efforts can be either owned or earned, and sometimes a combination of both.
  • SMS or Messenger Subscribers. These can be a list of phone numbers or messenger subscribers that you can immediately reach.

Earned Media

Earned media is often the most misunderstood between the three. Forrester defines earned media as “when your customer becomes the channel.” When people start talking about your brand, typically in a positive manner, it creates exposure for you which is the earned media.

Types of Earned Media

Just like paid and owned, earned media can come in many different forms. Here are a few of the different types of earned media:

Organic Press

Has a website or publication written content on your brand organically? This can be classified as earned media. You didn’t pay for it, you don’t own it, and all of those people you are gaining exposure to have been earned as a result of this press.


Has someone willingly left a positive review of your brand somewhere? Whether it be on Yelp, social media, or any other medium, this is another great example of earned media. This person has organically shared a review to garner positive exposure for your brand without you having to pay for it or directly influencing it.

Social Sharing

Social sharing is the golden boy of earned media and can be considered the modern day word-of-mouth. It can come in a number of forms. Perhaps someone saw your Facebook post and decided to share it with their audience on social. Someone may have posted a photo of your product or service on their Instagram. Someone may have texted a blog post on your site to one of their friends.

Why You Should Care About Earned Media

We’re living in a time where people trust direct communication from brands less and less. According to a Nielsen report, 83% of consumers trust digital word-of-mouth more than content produced directly by advertisers.

People have more access to information from other people than ever before. When considering a brand, they now have the option to read reviews, watch YouTube videos on your products and services, and search what people are saying about your brand on social media.

This is why more companies are starting to focus on earned media and incorporate it into their media mix.

How to Create Earned Media

You may be wondering how to create earned media? How can you control, scale, and measure digital word-of-mouth? This has been one of the trickiest issues brands face, but technologies and strategies are adapting to address these issues as companies put a greater emphasis on earned media.

Create Sharable Content

In order to do this, you need to put yourselves in the shoes of your customer. Social media is an extension of someone’s personality. People share to better their image and attract attention. This could be through content that is interesting, heartwarming or aligns with their personal beliefs and values.

Your brand should create content with this in mind. When you do, people will share your content with their networks enabling you to create earned media.

Incentivize Your Customers

Give your customers a reason to share. Rewards and incentives are a great method to develop earned media. Do you want your customer to leave a review? Reward them. Do you want your customer to share an offer with their friends? An incentive is a great way to make them want to share your brand with their peers and networks.

Work with Influencers

When you pay an influencer for exposure, that is considered paid media. However, the people that take that content and spread it through sharing is earned media. Working with influencers can serve as a great way to create word-of-mouth as a result of the paid activation.

Establish Relationships with Press

The same result that applies to influencers applies to press. When people share an article on their social or pass it along to a friend, this is earned media. If you can establish relationships with the press to get articles written about your product or service, the result is people engaging with it, passing it along and sharing it with friends.

Want to put your earned media on autopilot?

Learn how Ryplio can help you create, scale, and measure earned media from any of the forms of paid and owned you currently leverage to create a larger impact from your marketing and advertising.