What is Paid, Earned, Owned, & Shared Media

It can be easy to underestimate the complexity of digital marketing. Most people only see the end result of what is often a large effort from multiple teams within a business. Today, digital marketing is accomplished by strategizing around the different types of media at your disposal.

Depending on who you ask, there are either 3 or 4 different types of media: Paid, earned, owned, and shared. Some people will combine shared media with earned media, but there is an important difference which you can read about below. Regardless of how you divide the types of media, though, the most important factor in your strategy is how you combine them.

Let’s take a look at the different types of media and how you can use them to create a digital marketing strategy.

Paid Media

You’re already familiar with paid media; you know it as advertising. Paid media used to be the only digital marketing strategy available. It’s still important, but it’s arguably one of the less significant types of media now.

The basic idea is simple: You pay for space to promote your business. That space used to be in newspapers and on billboards and televisions. In digital marketing, the space is usually on a popular website like Google or Facebook. Before you know where you want to advertise, though, you have to know who you are targeting.

Paid media is about reaching the right people in the right way, and doing so at scale. It can be expensive, and measuring it depends on what space you’re using (Facebook, for example, provide excellent metrics), but it allows you to reach a lot of people very quickly.

Earned Media

Earned media is all about digital word-of-mouth. You might know this as public relations or media relations. Earned media is the recognition you receive from third parties.

Blog posts about your product, reviews of your business, and Twitter mentions are all examples of earned media. You generally earn these by creating great content and delivering an exceptional customer experience, but you can also just ask for them from journalists and publishers. Just keep in mind that the value of earned media is that it is, well, earned. It is seen as credible because it is coming from a third party.

Earned media is sometimes held synonymous with shared media. However, shared media is all about getting people to see your own content rather than third-party content. You can read more about shared media below.

Owned Media

Owned media is probably the most valuable type of media for a modern digital media strategy. It’s the content you create for your website, blog, and social media publishing. It’s main purpose is to provide value to leads as they move toward conversion into customers.

The most important thing to remember about owned media is that it is about providing value to your audience. You may have heard of this referred to as branded content. Owned media is less about selling your products or more about selling your business as a whole. It’s about sharing your values, insights, and opinions in order to help your leads determine if you’re the right business for them.

For your owned media to really take effect, it’s important to supplement it with a strong shared media strategy.

Shared Media

Shared media is similar to earned media because it’s purpose is to get someone else to advocate for your business. However, shared media focused on your owned media rather than third-party content. When people share your content to their social networks, that’s shared media.

The immediate impact of shared media is obvious: If people share your content, more people will see it, ideally resulting in more lead generation. However, a more subtle importance of shared media is the affect it has on search results. Google cares about how often content is shared. The more people share your content, the easier it will be to find.

To maximize shared media, be sure to create content that is valuable and encourages sharing. Also, include social sharing buttons on your website or blog to make the process as easy as possible.

Creating a Digital Marketing Strategy

Now that you’re familiar with the types of media, you should already have an idea of how you might create a digital marketing strategy. Some businesses make the mistake of thinking they have to choose one type of media. The best digital strategies take advantage of each type of media in a way that suits their business.

A basic example of this would be to use paid media to extend the reach of your owned media. Facebook for Business is a fantastic platform for this, but you should go wherever your audience is. If your audience is on Twitter or LinkedIn, you should look at the paid media options those platforms offer instead.

This is where the complexity of digital marketing strategy starts to become apparent. Knowing your audience requires research, experimentation, and adaptation. To be a modern business with a modern marketing strategy, you have to be able to use all types of media to capture the attention of your specific audience.


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