Owned, Earned, and Paid Media

Think of media as the different ways you can reach your customers; The paths you can use to share your story with many people at once. The different media types fall into three major categories: Owned Media, Earned Media, and Paid Media. The driving purpose of all of this media is to build a relationship with current customers and reach new ones. 

We are going to talk about these three types of media and the purpose, cost and time investment required to have success with them. We will also explore the level of control you have over each type of media and where your business or startup can begin using them. This is going to be a longer article, but it’s a good reference for each type of media and a great place to start comparing them. Feel free to skip around and look just for the information you want.

Owned Media

This means media that you have full control over, primarily your website and social media platforms, but even interactions at your business can be owned media. This includes a lot of communication you might overlook, like the materials you give to customers, your packaging and what it says, even how your building looks and what signage you use. We will stick to the more traditional understanding of Owned Media and talk about your digital platforms, website and social media. 


Owned Media is great for engaging with customers you already have and allowing new customers to find you organically. The goal of Owned Media is to maintain relationships and to leverage those relationships to reach new people through shared media. This provides you with direct access to communicating with your current customers. When you create a new product, add a new location, or make some change, your current customers are usually the first people you should tell. Your owned media is often where any online sales happen and where customers decide to become customers. Almost all other media is directed back to some form of your owned media. 


Owned media is generally the cheapest form of communication, but it takes a lot of work to be effective. Once your business is up and running, and you have created your website and social media platforms, the cost of Owned Media is mostly time. Sometimes you may have to pay for materials, like menus, brochures, or stickers and of course you have to pay at least some nominal fee for a place to put your website and. If you hire a consultant to build your website, which it may be worth doing, initial costs can go into the tens of thousands of dollars.


You will need to create large followings on social media and build great Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for your website to reach lots of people. Often this can take a long time if you do not help things along with paid advertising or a great earned media story. How long it can take to build a strong owned media channel depends on how much time you invest in it and how well you leverage the other media channels. Often paid media is used to get people into your owned media quickly. Once in your owned media channel you now have access to them going forward.


With Owned Media you have complete control of the message you want to share and how it is shared. Although this can be the most time consuming way to reach many people it is often the most authentic because you decide how to share your message, where to share your message, and when to share you message.

Getting started: Owned media

Create your accounts:

Every company needs to use Owned Media. Even if you decide not to use social media it’s important to create accounts for all social media channels so somebody else cannot take the name you want to use. Accounts are usually free to create. If you are going to create a website, buy your domain name to hold while you are preparing to make your site, almost every business needs a website. Your name may need to be trademarked to be sure it is not already in use and to prevent someone else from trying to use it. 

Social media use:

start posting your story. Share photos if you create anything that looks good. This can be photos of your product in beautiful places as well. Try the different types of social media and if one stands out more than the others. This is *free and just takes some of your time. Ask your customers, friends, and even family to follow you and share and like your posts. 

Earned Media

Earned media is anytime someone else helps you share your story and you do not have to pay them for it. Most of the time this means getting your story into news outlets, magazines, and TV shows. This is traditionally known as Public Relations, but also includes likes and shares on social media. Earned media can include reviews by customers on platforms like Yelp. Earned media is great because it can give you access to a large audience without the expense of advertising to reach them. 


Earned Media is great for sharing your story with new people and proving your worth. Earned Media is used to look for new customers by partnering with a person or organization to share your story. Social media shares and likes are the most accessible for a new business, but the average reach of a person on social media is smaller than media outlets. Finding ways to get local news and magazines to share your company is the big goal for earned media. Sometimes you get earned media attention by happenstance, but remember that you can also actively approach and pitch organization the benefits of sharing your story. That is what Public Relations is and it’s perfectly ok, encouraged in fact, to start approaching media outlets as partners even very early on.


Earned media is sometimes free, but sometimes there is some indirect cost. When someone shares your story on earned media it is free, but you may have to spend a little bit of money to get people to share your story. This can be discounts or promotions to get people to talk about your business. For media outlets, you do not usually have to spend money, but it can take a long time to get someone to cover your business. There is a trade between how fast you want to get earned media and how much you have to spend. Some organizations may offer to let you write a story about your product and promote it for a fee, this is known as “Native Advertising” and is not the same as “earned” media. There is some debate about the propriety of using Native Advertising, be aware of that.


Different types of earned media can take different amounts of time to earn. Getting some likes and follows on facebook or twitter can happen immediately. It can take longer to get a food magazine or local newspaper to come out and visit your business. Sometimes, once they visit, you still have to wait before they publish your story. Although results may not be immediate using earned media, often you can reach more people more quickly than owned media because others are helping you spread the word.


This type of media outlet usually requires you to give up some control. People are talking about you, and sometimes you get to choose the topic, but they will decide how to share your message. Newspapers and magazines will sometimes will want to talk about a certain part of your business and not others. On social media, your followers will only share stories they like. It can be worth giving up some control to get help sharing the story of your business.

Getting started: Earned Media

Earned media is all about building connections. Start with creating your social media accounts from the Owned Media section and start trying to get followers. Start sharing and asking viewers to like or share your posts with their friends. 

Start reaching out to newspapers, magazines, and websites related to your business. These outlets are often trying to share new stories with their readers and when your business launches that can be he most appealing time for media outlets to share your story. If you miss this opportunity it can be more difficult to get media attention later unless a big event happens with your organization. 

Paid Media

Paid media is any source you pay directly to share your story with potential customers. This is commonly known as advertising. You can find paid media options with the major social media platforms and with most large search engines. Using Native Advertising with newspapers and magazines also count. Paid media is the most straightforward to understand, but the most technical to master.


Paid media is all about meeting possible new customers and getting them to learn more about your business or product, if not make a purchase immediately. Depending on your company or industry, you might decide to focus on getting potential customers to visit your website or start doing some research about your company rather than asking them to buy something right away. The main driver of paid media is to reach people you do not already have as customers, share your story, and ask them to do something.


Paid media has the highest direct cost. After all, you are paying someone to share your story. The cost for Paid Media varies quite a bit. If you are advertising with a newspaper or magazine, there are usually only a few packages to choose from. If you are advertising through Google Adwords or Bing Advertising your business has a lot more control over how much it spends and where you spend it. It is important to track how many people you have to reach before one becomes a customer because it is possible to spend more money reaching people than you make from people becoming customers. That is not good for a business. 


Unlike other forms of media, Paid Media helps you reach customers whenever you would like. The limit to how long it takes to reach a large number of customers is the time it takes to create a good marketing campaign using an advertisers platform and how much money you are willing to spend. However, tracking is critical for Paid Media to optimize advertising campaigns. You should invest some time setting up tracking tools so you know if the money you spend is worth it. Monitoring Paid Media is an ongoing task. This is not a “set it and forget it” proposition. 


Similar to Owned Media, companies have a lot of control using Paid Media. The limits here have more to do with the structure of advertising platforms than what you say. Most of the limits to your control are about the length of your advertisement or the amount of space you get to use. For example, Google Adwords limits the amount of characters you can use for the headline and description for ads and Facebook ads have limits on the different sections of their ads as well. Otherwise, as long as you follow the law, and a few platform specific rules, you have full control over what is said about your company.

Getting started:

You can do anything you set your mind to. Although this type of media sounds the most straightforward, it is the most technical. Each advertising platform is different. They have different rules, different strategies, different reporting. Because there are direct costs involved in paid media, start with research and start small if you are managing your own account. Research the rules for the platforms you want to use, read a few articles about how each platform works, and do your best to find the platform that will work the best to find your customers. 

Budget carefully. The appeal of paid media is the concept of spending some money to make even more money by getting new customers. As mentioned earlier, it is possible to spend more money trying to get customers than actually earning from new customers. Start with a small budget and set up tracking to start experimenting. When you start seeing proven returns in a specific marketing campaign, increase the budget. Because of the technical nature of paid advertising and digital advertising in particular, you may want to take a partner and find a consultant or freelance digital advertising specialist.

We hope this article, as long as it is, has helped you understand how Owned, Earned, and Paid Media function. If you found your time spent here valuable we recommend looking at some of our other articles on the site and using the social share buttons below to help us spread the message, hopefully we have earned it.

EducationHakon Khajavei