Paid, owned, and earned media - what are they?

20 Oct 2022  |  by Olivia Parkes

4 min read

The three media ‘buckets’ of earned, shared, and paid media aren’t new. But, although paid media has traditionally gained the most focus from marketers, increasing prominence is now given to owned and earned media.

This is because, thanks to the increasing importance of social media and online PR, marketers are rapidly adapting their methods of budgeting, reporting, and investing in paid, owned, and earned media in order to reach and engage with their customers.

If you’re re-evaluating your marketing strategy, then it’s vital that you understand the role that paid, owned, and earned media play. Here, we’ll explain exactly what each of these concepts involves, and how you can ensure your strategy has the right blend.


Before we dive into the details and explain exactly why paid, owned, and earned media are so important, let’s first look at a definition for each concept.

Paid media

Paid media includes any marketing activities that you cannot execute for free. Due to this, paid media includes traditional advertising methods such as print advertisements or radio and TV ads, as well as billboards. However, paid media also includes online advertising efforts, such as ads on social media, ads on search engine results pages, and display ads on websites.

Although there’s a direct cost when using paid media, this form of marketing provides several advantages to businesses. For example, paid media offers advanced targeting options and is a great way of effectively reaching your target audience.

Owned media

Owned media refers to any marketing content that you own and that you can publish for free. This includes content that you publish on your website, blog content you post, and content you upload to your social media channels. Email marketing is also a form of owned media, as the content included is your own and the emails are free to send.

Owned media content should be central to any marketing strategy. This is because owned media is completely free and allows you to reach your audience organically.

Earned media

Earned media involves any form of content where other people are talking about your business, your product, or your brand. This includes influencers, PR, reviews of your product or business, or simply fans and advocates who share your content on their own or through social sharing tools.

Sometimes referred to as word-of-mouth marketing or free media, earned media can help you build trust in your products or services. This form of content can help potential customers see that you’re legitimate and that your products genuinely help people.

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

In a nutshell, the difference between these forms of media is that paid media is content you pay to place in front of an audience as an ad or sponsorship, while owned and earned are free.

Owned media is content you create and control, like your Facebook page or your website, while earned media is content others create about you, like reviews or Instagram posts.

Why you need to combine paid, owned, and earned media

Think of earned media, owned media, and paid media like a tripod. Each element contributes to a complete digital marketing strategy.

If a customer sees the same product or service referenced on multiple platforms, across multiple ads, and in multiple posts, they are more likely to remember it. Plus, if these customers see or hear their friends and family talking about the same product or service, then they’re more likely to get interested. This is the blend of paid, owned, and earned media in action.

A good business has a presence everywhere a customer might look for them, making use of paid, owned, and earned media opportunities. This way, a business can capture the most business and increase customer convenience.

Plus, by embracing the value owned and earned media can provide, businesses can also lessen their reliance on paid media. This way, a business can reduce their advertising costs and rebalance their budget to maximise ROI.

However, before you embark on new paid, owned, and earned media campaigns, you first need to conduct some analysis and find out which platforms you should be marketing on, and which strategies will provide you with the best ROI. This will predominantly be determined by where your customers are online, how they like to engage with marketing campaigns, and the goals of your business. To help you determine which methods may be best, you should employ the help of marketing software. This can be used to connect your channels, analyse the data you’re generating, target your audience, and manage your campaigns.

How can Apteco Orbit™ help you get valuable insights?

Using Apteco Orbit™, you can connect, analyse, target, and campaign, all in one beautiful workspace.

By accessing all of your connected data sources, you can make smarter, data-informed decisions from a single view of your first-party data. Then, you can integrate and connect data with your preferred ESPs and fulfilment channels.

On top of this, you can use Apteco Orbit™ to better understand your audiences and create more targeted and effective campaigns. You can use data exploration and visualisation tools to convert large volumes of transactional, multi-channel data to identify your ideal audience and create targeted customer segments.

Finally, Apteco Orbit™ also allows you to turn your insights into action. You can send and monitor your campaigns with instant, real-time access to activity reports from Apteco PeopleStage™.

Interested in discovering more about how Apteco Orbit™ can help you gather valuable insights from your paid, owned, and earned media campaigns? Book a demo today.


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Olivia Parkes

Digital Marketing and Media Specialist

Olivia joined the Apteco team in 2022 to boost the Apteco brand, improve the Search Engine Optimisation, create engaging content to push the Apteco platforms as well as sponsored advertisements. Olivia is CIM qualified and has seven years of marketing experience working in a variety of sectors.

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