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Paid, Earned and Owned Media – What’s the Difference?

David Burns founder of Notion PR looks at the difference between paid, earned and owned media
Paid, Earned and Owned Media – What’s the Difference?

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


The best way to think about paid, owned and earned media is like a tripod - each part is fundamentally important in creating a successful marketing strategy for a brand. However, the ability to differentiate between varied media types can make or break the success of your company’s campaign. Most importantly, this understanding of variation will help determine where and how to allocate budget to achieve the best possible ROI and outcome for your campaign activity.

To start, it is important to have a basic understanding of how each media type is defined. With this preliminary understanding, we will be able to see how each media type’s characteristics can contribute to a company‘s marketing strategy and understand the pros and cons of each type.

What is Paid Media?


Media coverage which a business obtains through payment by way of getting quick exposure. This is often referred to as ‘paid content’ which can occur in various forms, ‘online and physical advertisements’ ‘pay per click campaigns’, ‘paid influencers’ and ‘paid social media ads’.

What is Earned Media?


Media coverage which is publically earnt through promotional endeavours, not through paid advertisement. This is most often defined under Public Relations. Essentially, earned media occurs when people begin to talk about your brand and business. This can be through ‘word-of-mouth’, ‘reviews’, ‘social media mentions and reviews’ and ‘press mentions’.

What is Owned Media?


Media which your brand and business has complete control over. This most commonly occurs through a ‘company websites’, ‘social media profiles’ and ‘newsletters’ which may be directed straight from a company to subscribers.

Whilst there appears to be several differences between paid, earned and owned media, these can actually be separated into two distinct sections - ‘creative control’ and ‘cost’’. Both of these differences can be considered both positively and negatively. However, it cannot be forgotten that in order for a business to succeed it must have a cohesive and effective marketing strategy which is most successful when paid, earned and owned media are all incorporated.

Creative Control:


Generally, a brand has creative control over paid media. However, this is all dependent on the ad’s which the brand is targeting as there is a risk that the paid ad’s, particularly from paid social media influencers, may not conform to your brand’s code of conduct and creative advertising endeavours. However, this can be avoided by advising your paid influencers to follow the guidance of the Advertising Standards Association (ASA) and examine the codes of practice relevant to your advertising campaign through the UK’s Committee of Adveritsing Practice’s (CAP) advertising campaign.

Unlike paid media which can give rise to creative difference between a brand and paid advertisers, owned media allows a company to retain complete creative control. The company invests money into bespoke digital marketing channels which allow complete creative agency to remain in their possession. What paid and owned media have in common is finance - effectiveness, efficiency and size of exposure through paid ad’s and owned media outlets is entirely down to budget, whilst earned media tends to be free. Earned media campaigns are one of the most effective ways to promote a brand’s profile, however it means the brand must relinquish creative agency. A brand must trust in the content of discussion, press writings and reviews by way of acquiring successful marketing outcomes. As earned media has the power to reach large numbers of consumers, when done correctly, this media type has a considerable effect on a company.

How could Esme help?

At Esme, we offer business loans ranging from £10,000 to £250,000* over a 1 to 5 year repayment period. A business loan can offer you a quick injection of capital that can help your business expand in exciting directions without having to worry about major hits to your cash flow.

Think you’re ready to make the next move? Just fill out our 10 minute application form or try our business loan calculator to get an idea of how much your monthly repayments could be.

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