Paid, Owned, and Earned Media: A Guide

  • Content marketing depends on three key channels: paid, owned, and earned media. 
  • Paid media relies on paid placement to heighten your brand’s exposure.
  • The goal of owned media is to sustain a positive conversion from targeted prospects.
  • Earned media is exposure won through the influence of impactful content, paid impressions, and SEO, among other methods.
  • Balancing the convergence of paid, owned, and earned media depends on the business sector, budget, KPIs, and time constraints.

Digital marketers are probably already familiar with paid, owned, and earned media. But small-to-medium sized businesses would be well served to understand these essential types of media and their indelible role in crafting an effective digital marketing strategy for their brand. 

Your effort in creating worthwhile content is a critical component of a successful campaign. Investing in an agency’s support to develop and produce such content is equally valuable, but it would be fruitless without an intelligent approach to promoting and delivering this messaging to your target audience.

Content marketing strategies generally depend on leveraging three key channels: paid, owned, and earned media, and Redefine Marketing Group uses a multidimensional process to develop client marketing strategies with a focus on building a properly balanced campaign. 

This article will explore how each of these types of media channels serves as a fundamental element of effective digital marketing for your business. We’ll also explore how what were once separate marketing disciplines have converged to form a modern workflow equation.

Paid media

Paid media is a type of promotional channel that relies on paid placement to heighten your brand’s impact and impressions, produce click-throughs, and otherwise increase traffic.

Businesses can invest in paid promotions like sponsored posts, social media ads, guest blog posts, display ads, streaming video ads, paid search campaigns, and other types of promoted content on a broad range of social media channels from LinkedIn to TikTok. Even traditional paid mediums like television and radio advertising are equivalent to Google AdWords as modes of paid media.

A form of paid media, sponsored posts, on LinkedIn.


Facebook remains the exemplary paid media channel boasting consistent promotional appeal. The platform serves content to over 2.5 billion users monthly, averaging almost 2 billion daily users. This abundance of data offers valuable insights into local consumer engagement, with a reported 1 in 3 people using the platform to look for recommendations and reviews. The platform is among the best enduring paid media channels even during the current pandemic. What’s more, Facebook presently owns four of the six social media channels with more than 1 billion monthly users… for the time being.

The increasing sophistication of modern media channels also broadens an already wide spectrum of paid promotional opportunities. But mere social media posts are just one facet of the fast-changing social media complex, a field where influencer marketing is giving organic content a run for its money. 

Influencer marketing 

The key of influencer marketing as a paid media channel is in the power of sharing — shared content, shared messaging, shared audiences, and the resulting shared influence. As powerful as paid media via influencer marketing can be, it also presents a dual-edged sword. A large percentage of surveyed marketers report struggling to maintain control over paid influencer campaigns. This paid media relationship relies on trust, and although a campaign may be guided by your brand’s agenda, the resulting content is solely in the hands of your partner.

Advantages of paid media

Since any paid campaign investment requires thorough planning and analysis, results are expected to be on-target. A key advantage of paid media as a marketing strategy is the subscriber’s ability to track a campaign’s ROI and suspend or adjust investment as needed. While established social media channels offer integrated products to track paid media results, the most meaningful insights are derived by using more specialized analytics tools. 

You can use Analytics to track your various paid campaigns.

Your audience is deluged by a sea of brand promotions and trendy marketing on all the aforementioned paid media channels. Therefore, the content marketing strategy you craft, whether in-house or in partnership with an agency, needs to be reliable in building authentic relationships between your brand and customers. 

This is where Redefine Marketing Group excels. We build trust with our clients’ audiences not solely through quality content creation and measurement, but by applying creative methodologies to identify optimal paid media channels for active engagement in their sector. Being mindful of new trends and technologies, such as the explosive growth in social audio platforms, may hold the key to gaining an edge on the competition when charting your paid media marketing strategy.

Owned Media

Paid, owned, and earned media each have inherent and measurable value. But owned media is the only channel that comprises the entire spectrum of content marketing formats over which your company has full ownership and control. This may include material such as: 

The principal goal of owned media is to sustain a positive conversion from your targeted prospects. As you leverage paid media to attract leads, your owned media is the destination by which you ultimately engage your audience. It’s the central reason why quality content is the mainstay of any successful marketing strategy. Good organic content marketing should be a constant and tireless effort, and search engines will reward you for it. Live by the mnemonic: ABPQCA. “Always be producing quality content… always.”

An example of our owned media.

A proper application of the right tools and partners allows you to flag which of your owned content succeeds in engaging your key audience. This in turn helps you tailor your paid media campaign to target those topics, hone your owned media, and drive traffic.

Advantages of owned media

Owned media not only builds a relationship with your audience — it also allows you to author new content of relevant value to new prospects. Doing so enables users to better evaluate your offerings and elect to consume more or convert valuable transactions. It presents the most manageable opportunity to revise and enhance your messaging strategy and it can operate independently of costly promotion.

There are no guarantees with owned media, and it takes time to build trust and scale to meet the needs of small and enterprise businesses alike. An agency relationship is vital in helping to develop the most effective owned media content for your needs. More importantly, the right partner is equipped to determine which channels are best suited for your brand and audience as well as refine the promotional strategy that balances your goals cost-effectively.

Earned Media

Of paid, owned, and earned media, only one provides unmatched value by way of inherent trust. Word-of-mouth. Trending. Ranking. All of these are valuable wins for any marketing strategy, and all are examples of earned media. 

Exposure won through the influence of impactful content, paid impressions, and search engine optimization, among other methods, is earned media — and hard-earned at that. Earned media exposure may include: 

  • Simple retweets
  • Positive independent reviews and recommendations
  • References in publications
  • Search engine placement
  • Any third-party recognition enjoyed by the merits of your marketing 

As many as 90% of shoppers’ purchasing decisions are influenced by user-generated content, making earned media potentially more persuasive than other forms of digital marketing today — including search engines, display ads, and social media.

Advantages of earned media

Where paid media offers customization and measurable results, earned media trades this control for the fluid value of virally shared content. However, when it comes to building trust with your audience, there is no comparison with earned media. The ubiquity of online information and emergence of novel exposure types across media environments ensure a constant propagation of new strategies for winning earned media. 

Websites like HARO (Help a Reporter Out) “connect journalists seeking expertise to include in their content with sources who have that expertise.” This resource alone continually produces earned media opportunities every day, and can be more powerful than any press release. Positive media relations can not only earn exposure, it also prospects new leads by reaching audiences interested in your sector. This type of accredited earned media value builds brand trust and recognition, enhances SEO, and can help achieve KPI targets.

The HARO homepage

Building your own brand’s reputation takes time, but it can establish your voice as a thought leader and facilitate access to valuable conversations across publishing platforms and all types of media. Providing guest blog posts to popular sites, responding to high-profile Twitter threads on relevant topics, participating in conference and webinar panels, and featuring your organization’s leaders on podcasts and vlogs are some of the countless ways you can foster earned media to elevate ranking on search engines, drive traffic, and yield leads.


It isn’t enough to know how paid, owned, and earned media channels work individually to build a successful marketing strategy. Even the most basic content marketing blueprints today assume that best practices demand a combination of paid, owned, and earned media to leverage an integrated strategy

The concept of converging all types of media is not new. Marketing experts have published findings on the topic for years. But adopting a convergence model in your marketing strategy isn’t a simple task. Effectively balancing the convergence of paid, owned, and earned media is dependent on your business sector, budget allocation, KPIs, and any deadlines or other constraints on campaign expectations.

Promoted brand content is the ultimate convergence of paid, owned, and earned media.

Integration is key 

Identifying and understanding how convergence fits into a promotional framework is just the first step in building an intelligent system for your content marketing. The Redefine Marketing Group team improves on its successes by operating multidimensionally. We build and restructure ongoing strategy for our clients based on traditional analysis and reporting along with real-time measurement — while simultaneously adapting our approach with an awareness of emerging trends that impact methodologies now and into the future. This way, we stay attuned to the mindset of your target prospects and conceive of the most persuasive content messaging that attracts authentic interest.

Effectively marketing your brand relies not solely on metrics, but by constantly integrating these data with a host of factors both material and emergent. A partnership with Redefine Marketing Group equips you with the tools necessary to grapple every facet of converged media and do so climbing a spiral staircase of success over time. Explore how you can build a sustainable relationship with your audience using paid, owned, and earned media by requesting a consultation with Redefine Marketing Group today. 

Author avatar
Victor Lopez
Victor is an SEO specialist for Redefine Marketing Group. Victor's primary focus within his role at Redefine is technical SEO. He's also a Cal Poly Pomona alum with a Business Administration degree in E-commerce and minor Marketing.
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