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Knowing the Difference Between Owned, Paid, and Earned Media (and Why It Matters for Your Business)

Updated: Apr 28, 2023

Did you know that over 70 percent of customers say they are likely to buy from brands they follow on social media?

With over 3.5 billion active social media users, that equates to some significant potential for businesses to generate revenue through social media platforms.

In spite of the arguments that social media's permanence can harm an individual's reputation, MarketScale’s Brandon Morgan explains that social media--which is owned media--is actually a significant advantage for businesses when it comes to reaching current and potential customers, compared to paid and earned media.

But what exactly is the difference between owned, earned, and paid media and why should it matter which I prioritize? Don’t businesses own all their media? You may think so, but that is not the case. Let’s break down the three media types so you can make informed decisions about the best media strategies for your brand or company.

Owned media:

Benefits and drawbacks of owned media:

You can’t beat the control and the low cost that owned media such as websites and social media offer, helping you build consistent branding and establish credibility with potential customers. However, it can be time-consuming and difficult to grow a following through owned media, especially recently established owned media with a limited following.

Paid media:

Benefits and drawbacks of paid media:

It’s an easy and quick way to reach a large audience. It also provides measurable results that can help better shape a marketing strategy, and it’s often easy to adjust the campaigns. However, the paid media audience is more fleeting compared to the audience of owned media; you also must repeatedly pay to regain an audience through campaign ads.

Earned media:

Externally generated; not created by the company or paid for by the company

Benefits and drawbacks of earned media:

Earned media is free, which is a huge benefit. It also requires minimal direct effort on the company’s part, being more the result of customers using the products or services they offer as well as of customers consuming other media the company has already established. Unfortunately, there isn’t much control over the message or how it is relayed in terms of the timing or placement.

Which is best for my business?

You must evaluate what mix of media you want to target for your own branding. Owned media is more like buying a house versus renting an apartment—think of the long-term benefits of creating permanent content that you gradually invest in and build up. The following is more permanent, versus having to be re-generated, as with paid media. However, paid media can reach a wider audience much faster than owned media. And earned media is an option once a business builds trust with customers through the products or services provided.

Thought Leadership by Brandon Morgan & Tim Maitland

Article written by Cara Schildmeyer


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