Paid, Earned & Owned: What Matters and Where Should You Invest?

Paid, Earned & Owned: What Matters and Where Should You Invest?

Content marketing is here to stay. You should be warned though: it is getting far more sophisticated than it was when no one was doing it. Algorithm updates like Hummingbird (and all the other animals) have spurred website owners into taking stock of the content they put out and have led many to reevaluate their strategy.

Media is the new game in town. Blog posts are just the tip of the iceberg. White papers, videos, infographics, presentations and tools are becoming a big part of the equation. Still, it’s not just about owned media. Just because you build it, doesn’t mean they’ll come. In 2014, diversification is key.

Differences Between Paid, Earned & Owned Media

As you can see in the chart below, each form of media is designed to achieve very specific goals. Owned media is what you control: your blog, website, fan page and so on. Paid media is sponsored content, advertisements, and banner ads. Earned media is the buzz your marketing creates.

Differences Between Paid, Earned & Owned Media

Differences Between Paid, Earned & Owned Media

Owned Media

Each form of media has its own advantages and disadvantages. Owned media puts you in control. It is one of the most important areas you can invest. For a forum owner this would mean adding rich content and tools that will attract more visitors. For example, you can add a blog to increase content around your niche, or create a unique marketplace; something your audience would appreciate. You want people to want to show up and the only way you are going to be able to do that is have something cool or useful.

Here are some examples of Owned media:

Paid Media

Paid media (advertising!) is not the end all solution to success online. More times than not it can be quite expensive to get targeted traffic. The other disadvantage of paid media is as soon as you stop paying, your traffic is gone.

There are still some important reasons to get involved with paid media: it can boost your exposure. Ultimately your goal is to rank for your keywords through owned media, but before you get there you should be leveraging paid traffic to funnel visitors to your site. You want people to be exposed to your content and the only way you are going to get the numbers (without ranking for your keywords already)  is through highly targeted paid traffic.

Some examples:

  • Google Adwords
  • Display advertising
  • Sponsored content
  • StumbleUpon Paid Discovery
  • Content sharing (Zemanta,, Outbrain)

Earned Media

Earned media is viral marketing. It is when your customers become the advocates of your brand and create a “buzz”. This is the most difficult to scale and can just as well be negative. Your goal is to achieve this level of media from building your own channels (owned media) and heavily promoting these properties (paid media). When the result of the two equal more people talking about your business, it is called converged media.

What To Do

Whether you are building a blog or a forum, you need to focus on building up useful and relevant content on your site. Owned media is always the best alternative: It’s in your control. Just don’t get so focused on SEO or “content” that you ignore paid advertising channels. Paid media is a great way to get new exposure, so definitely leverage advertising to show off the content you create. With any luck (and a bit of hard work) you’ll start creating a buzz that will keep your visitors hungry for more.

Post Written by
Greg Middlesworth is the owner of URLjet.


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