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Why You Need to Understand Paid, Earned and Owned Media for Digital and Marketing Strategy Success

I’m often heard saying, “Social Media should not be your primary sales driver. You don’t own it. (FYI: Meta does because they own the platform and ultimately have control of access to your content.” but what does that mean? 

Today we take a look at the terms Paid, Earned and Owned Media, the trifecta of elements you need to know and evaluate when it comes to planning your digital marketing and sales strategy. You need to understand each and how they intersect to effectively reach, engage and convert your target audience.

Venn Diagram, three overlapping circles (Two circles at the top with one in the middle and overlapping below). The top left circle has the text Earned, The top right circle says Paid and the bottom circle says Owned There  header and bulleted ta
Venn Diagram of Earned Paid and Owned media - The Marketing & Digital Strategy Trifecta

Paid Media:

It’s like it sounds. This is any content you need to pay money to share it. This is an important part of the puzzle, as paid media helps drive traffic and revenue to your owned media properties so you can convert them.

Paid media includes:

  • Social media Ads/Boosts

  • Display ads

  • Pay-per-Click

  • Retargeting

  • Influencers compensated for talking about you/your brand

  • Off-line: Newspaper and Magazine ads, and Outdoor billboards


Earned Media:

This is any publicity you have gained through word-of-mouth, online shares, reviews, TV or podcast appearances or even quotes in a news article. It is the unpaid promotions you’ve received as a result of people talking and sharing information about you, your brand, or product/service. I think this is the most valuable of the three for the credibility it brings from unbiased sources.

Earned media includes:

  • Reviews

  • Social Media Mentions

  • Press Coverage

  • Organic Search Engine Rankings

  • Unpaid Podcast Appearances


Owned Media:

These are all of the channels that you or your brand controls. They are typically those platforms where you have full editorial control and can publish content without relying on external resources. (This last part disqualifies social media from Owned media.)  

The benefit of owned media is that you have control over the content and messaging. You have access to your target audience and don’t have to reply on someone else to get those messages out.

Owned Media includes:

  • Company Website

  • Mobile website

  • Newsletters (Emailed or Mailed)

  • Podcast (that you produce)

  • Mobile apps that you create

But wait… You’re asking – Where does Social Media fit in?!

My perspective is that Social Media sits in between Owned and Earned, but sometimes can be Paid. 

It is not owned as ultimately the providers own your social media and ensuring your access. Yes, YOU drive the content which you should legally own, but at the end of the day, you could lose access to if you’re hacked, or the platform is down for days. Sometimes you can lose everything.


To build a successful digital and marketing strategy, you need to integrate all three types of media: Paid, Earned and Owned Media.

Doing so helps you educate and build the trust you need to convert prospects into customers. This is done ideally on the channels where you control what’s said and done. A synergistic strategy also enables you to share branded and targeted messages that speak to your audience vs. relying solely on someone else’s opinion.  In the end, how you leverage each will affect how far you can maximize each marketing campaign.

Need an Example? You write a blog post about your product or service (owned media). Next you promote it through a google ad or boosted social media post to gain exposure (paid media) outside of your current subscribers.  A prospect sees it and buys said product/service, loves it, and shares a review (earned media).   I hope this helps when it comes to planning your next content strategy. I’m also available to talk about this further if you need more guidance.


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