What are earned media in digital marketing

Paid media, owned media, earned media

Paid, Owned & Earned Media: Brief explanation

In the social web, a distinction is made between the media types paid, owned and earned media. The three areas stand for communication channels in the online environment with which advertisers can reach their target groups. A good online marketing strategy requires a mix of all three types.

Detailed explanation:

The terms paid, owned and earned media come from marketing and media planning. They go back to the Finnish mobile phone manufacturer Nokia. There they were used for the first time in 2008 as part of media planning. By delimiting the three forms of advertising, the aim was to better classify digital media and record the options available for developing digital campaigns. We are now convinced that a uniform and consistent brand strategy is the key to success: According to a joint study by Burda and the agency C3 Creative Code and Content, paid and owned media should be coordinated with one another.

In the following, a distinction is made between the three media types Paid, Owned and Earned Media and it is shown which marketing instruments fall into which area.

Paid media

Paid media (sometimes also called “bought media”) refers to any form of paid advertising on the Internet. This type of media includes all paid marketing instruments in the online area that companies have to pay for. In the online world, paid advertising is the most common form of advertising used by businesses.

Many companies rely on paid media channels as part of their online strategy to get their messages across and to advertise their content in a targeted manner. Classic banner ads as well as social media ads on Facebook, Twitter and Co. are counted as paid media. But search engine advertising (SEA) with Google AdWords is also one of the paid media. Content discovery tools such as Outbrain, which companies can use for the paid distribution of content, can be seen as a newer form of paid media.

Companies have good control over paid media channels. You can start your campaigns when you want and have an overview of the costs at all times. But many consumers use AdBlocker to hide advertisements on the Internet. They are often suspicious of company advertisements. Therefore, the credibility of paid media compared to other types of media is not very high.

Paid media should lead to more traffic to the company's offers, such as the company's website or landing pages. Paid media are used to improve the performance of owned media.

Owned media

In the online age, a high-quality digital corporate presence is crucial for success. All in-house channels of a company are referred to as owned media. Owned media therefore includes all of the company's corporate media channels. This could be, for example:

  • Company website
  • Blog
  • Social media presences, such as Facebook fan pages, Twitter pages, etc.
  • Newsletter

Companies can build long-term customer relationships through their own channels. To do this, however, the owned media channels must be managed professionally.

A big advantage of owned media is that companies have full control over their own channels. In addition, operating the owned media channels is more cost-effective than paid advertising. In contrast to recommendations from friends and acquaintances (referral marketing), consumers do not always rate the information that comes from company channels as credible. Owned media and paid media can together lead to earned media.

Earned media

Earned media describes the phenomenon that users distribute the content of a brand themselves and thus become a channel. With good content, companies earn reach in the social web, so to speak. Consumers communicate about a brand via online word-of-mouth, which can be expressed in comments, mentions or experience reports.

Earned media can lead to more traffic and user engagement. If users share a brand's content, it can also spread virally on the internet. In contrast to paid media, however, companies cannot buy earned media. Businesses can only earn it for themselves by delivering quality, relevant, and entertaining content, such as: B. with targeted content marketing, PR or search engine optimization.

In order to achieve earned media, it is important that the content of companies meets the following criteria:

  • Uniqueness (Unique Content)
  • Target group relevance
  • clear structure
  • appealing style
  • Clarity and comprehensibility
  • good preparation
  • Search engine optimization

In addition, it is important to address the target group on the channels on which they are active. Earned media management also includes listening to and responding to users on social media and the web.

The advantage of earned media is its special credibility. However, earned media also have disadvantages: In contrast to owned media, they can hardly be controlled and can also convey negative messages about the company. They are also difficult for companies to monitor and measure.

Often companies consider earned media to be free. But the production of high-quality content (e.g. blog articles, graphics or press releases) that leads to earned media is associated with time and costs.

The graphic from Forrester shows a comparison of the three media types Paid Media, Owned Media and Earned Media with examples:


The distinction between paid, owned and earned media comes from media planning. In online marketing, the three terms have established themselves to classify which digital marketing instruments are used in a campaign.

All three media types have certain advantages and disadvantages. Depending on the company and campaign, a different distribution of paid, owned and earned media makes sense. While owned media refers to a company's own channels (e.g. website or blog), paid media (e.g. banner advertising) serve to arouse the target group's interest in the company's offers. In the ideal case, earned media emerges from this, in which consumers disseminate the company content themselves.

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