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Earned Media Vs. Owned Media Vs. Paid Media

Earned Media vs. Owned Media vs. Paid Media

Any successful media relations strategy, from marketing to public relations, relies on a tactful understanding of your media options. These choices can make or break your messaging and communications and often cost time, money, and opportunity. Therefore, to do so effectively, it is important to understand not only the various specific channels of media but also the various categories they fall into.

Like when choosing to travel by car, train, or airplane, different types of media have advantages and disadvantages that vary depending on the desired goal. Though all of these ways can possibly get you to the desired destination eventually, some are more efficient and valuable than others. Not to mention that each media type, like a mode of transportation, has its own capabilities that are truly unique and are important to consider when laying out your media relations plan.

Be sure to check out our All-Inclusive Guide to Media Relations for background on the overall importance and foundation of media relations. This will get you up to speed before we dissect each type of media. 

Let’s dive in!

There are three main categories of media: earned, owned, and paid. Here we will examine each type, what it is, what makes it beneficial for your media relations efforts, and some common examples.

 

Earned Media

What is it?

When people think of earned media, its most common example is in regards to public relations. In a broader context, earned media is any media coverage gained without any payment or transaction. Like Lindsay Kolowich Cox says in her article “Earned Media, Explained in 400 Words or Less, “You haven’t paid for this media to be created — the way you would for, say, an advertisement — and therefore your actions alone “earned” you this attention.” 

Though inspired often by a story pitch or press release, earned media messages are spread through channels independent of you. 

Why is it beneficial?

The key benefit to earned media is its credibility with your audience. As its coverage is independent of you, it is often seen as trustworthy or less biased. On the flip side, since it is independent of your control, bad earned media such as a bad review is harder to combat. In the end, earned media messaging is known for its ability to more deeply connect with audiences outside of what often feels like constant commercials and sales pitches.

Common Examples:

  • News Coverage
  • Interviews
  • Product Reviews or Testimonials
  • Content Shares (ie. Retweets)

Owned Media

What is it?

Unlike earned media that is outside of your control, owned media is media that is created and distributed by you. These are channels of communication that you have full control over. A common example is this website! Everything that goes onto the OnePitch blog is 100% controlled by us, from the messaging to the user experience. With owned media, you are the gatekeeper of information. 

In his article, “Making Sense of Owned Media, Mark Bonchek breaks down owned media characteristics to consist of 3 things: content, community, and context. With owned media, you are able to control the content flowing in your channel, build community on the channel with your audience, and establish the context at which the audience absorbs your information.

Why is it beneficial?

Like we said, owned media’s main benefit is your ability to control what is put out into the world. This can be beneficial when wanting to ensure your message is not altered by others. You are able to craft and put out messages the way you want them to be presented. The downside is that, because of this control, it is often seen as biased or highly tilted in the creator’s favor. What earned media lacks in control, owned media lacks in credibility. Nevertheless, owned media is important for disseminating information and can have the potential to be picked up by a journalist to become earned media. (Remember, though each media channel is distinct, they all interact and influence each other!)

Common Examples:

  • Websites
  • Blogs
  • Social Media
  • Emails

What is it?

Last but not least, we have paid media. Paid media is the most traditional and common thought example of media marketing efforts. Paid media is any content that you pay external services to promote to a larger audience. A basic example of paid media is traditional advertising where companies pay outside agents for their services to spread the desired messages without your constant control or oversight. Though traditional paid media channels like television and outdoor advertising still exist, many new forms of paid media are evolving with the advent of digital media platforms and data collection. 

Why is it beneficial?

One key benefit of paid media is its ability to have reach and drive traffic quickly. You and your company are paying a premium to be visible in front of your audience. This increased reach and visibility can be very useful in achieving marketing goals where you want to build brand awareness or inform your audience. But paid media does come at a cost. 

The obvious downside to paid media is its price tag. Since you are paying for this media promotion, often by click or by the view, you need to be sure you are considering these costs like investments to yield the most return. Additionally, similar to owned media, paid media can be perceived as less credible. Nevertheless, with services like Facebook and Google Ads, it is possible to boost owned media through promotion, therefore, becoming paid media. (Another example of the interactions between media types!) 

Common Examples:

  • Display Ads
  • Sponsored Ads
  • Paid Search
  • Google Ads

For more examples of digital paid media such as social media ads, check out the Wordtracker article, What is paid media and how to use It.

Conclusion

As you can see, there is no one-size-fits-all media that will accomplish every media relations effort you have. It is important to understand the fundamentals of each to better equip yourself for tackling your varying goals. From gaining awareness to influencing purchase behavior, your media choice should be used as the vessel that best carries your message to your audience.

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Check out The Pros & Cons of Different Types of Media for additional information on the advantages and disadvantages of the three main media channels: print, broadcast, and digital. In addition to learning about the different types of media, it is important to understand the media’s place in your overall strategy. Read our article Media Relations vs Public Relations to understand the distinction and value both types play.

Overall, though it can seem daunting or confusing picking between media types, always remember that it is about the interconnection of your media efforts that yield success. Whether it’s through earned, owned, or paid media, be sure your media efforts consider both the small scale goals you are aiming to accomplish as well as the big picture framework for your strategy. Media relations is chess, not checkers. As they each have different functions, all types of media play a role in winning the overall game.

Mathew Cruz

Mathew started at OnePitch in January of 2020 as a Marketing Apprentice. At OnePitch, he handles content creation from social media to the OnePitch blog. Mathew studied Integrated Marketing Communications at San Diego State University. In his free time, he loves creating art, visiting museums, and traveling.

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