Lee Odden

Paid, Earned, Owned & Shared Media – What’s Your Online Marketing Media Mix?

Lee Odden     Online Marketing

media mixIn the Content Marketing Trilogy of Discovery, Consumption and Sharing, there are a mix of media types online marketers employ to facilitate the connection between brand information and consumers / buyers across the customer lifecycle relationship. Those media types are often characterized as Paid, Earned, Owned and Shared media.  What do those media types mean and where do they fit within an online marketing mix?  Here’s a 30,000 foot view of each media type and what they might contribute to a content marketing strategy:

Paid Media – Often thought of as “traditional” online advertising through display ads, pay per click search ads and sponsorships. The pro for paid media is it’s ability to be implemented pretty much on-demand, the ability to have some degree of control and also that it scales. The growing popularity of social advertising on sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (YouTube as well) adds another option for marketers to gain presence in channels where consumers and buyers are spending their time. The appearance of brand messages and content within paid media can work together with social sharing and organic search.

Earned Media – The result of public & media relations efforts to gain coverage in publications – on and offline. Or essentially, brand presence within media without having to advertise. This definition also extends to brands that behave online in such a way that “customers empowered to publish” create content on the brand’s behalf inspiring buzz and word of mouth.

Owned Media – Media, content and assets that the brand controls, like websites, blogs, newsletters and brand social media accounts. Brands are increasingly behaving like publishers with editorial staff managing content creation steams. “Content Marketing” is the hot topic when it comes to Owned Media and can facilitate brand information discovery through search and social channels. Content engages customers and fosters relationships throughout the customer lifecycle. Brand content to serve both broad and niche audiences is not immediately scalable, but can provide long term growth benefits without corresponding growth in costs.

Shared Media – Brand social web participation and interaction with consumers on content on sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube that  results in content is “shared media” since it’s a result of a shared interaction. Because of the nature of social sharing and engagement on social media sites, Shared Media can propagate across an individual’s network to others, and so on and so on.  Paid and Owned Media can inspire Shared Media. Shared Media can inspire Earned Media.

As more online marketers are exposed to these terms most commonly used by Advertising and Public Relations Agencies, I think it’s useful to explore what they mean for content marketing and the options for marketers to best facilitate consumer information discovery, consumption and sharing.

Within your marketing organization, do you refer to media in these terms? Do you use different definitions? Which of these media are in your online marketing mix?


PoorSo SoOKGoodAwesome (11 votes, average: 3.64 out of 5)

Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. The line between earned and shared is fuzzy with respect to online content – to the extent that you could almost combine the two, don’t you think?  Indeed, shared media can inspire earned media, as well as the other way around.

    • Earned is often the result of PR or media relations efforts. For example, a brand getting covered on an industry website or blog. Shared is the result of a brand and customers or fans interacting and mutually creating content. For example, a contest that promotes consumer creation of content using brand supplied tools. They are very different I think.

  2. Nice article! I usually concentrate on shared and owned media although I’m also open to other area of opportunity.

  3. Lee, I would say that “shared” media is actually a subset of “earned” media.

    Because the nature of social sharing is permission-based, there is a gatekeeper involved whose trust you must earn before being allowed to share content with them. In terms of ranking of socially shared content, you are also earning the approval or validation of the individual doing the ranking.

    • Earned media is recognition of a brand from a publication with a readership. Shared media is co-created between brands and their consumers. I’m not as clear how one would be a subset of the other exactly, but are certainly connected.

  4. I cater exclusively to small businesses and start-ups. I find it a particularly interesting and rewarding niche to operate in. Since most of what I do is online, I rarely use the terms you’ve outlined. Though I have used “paid media” in the past, it’s usually the last media type that I implement. 

    When I work with clients on the other media types, I usually refer to them by application. For example, I’ll use “social media” to refer to different modes of shared and owned media used specifically in social networking sites. I will also use the term “in-house media” instead of “owned media.”

    Now here’s a question to turn the tables: With the recent proliferation of online marketing professionals, SHOULD marketers adopt these terms and conform to advertisers and public relations agencies? Or should all three sets of professionals work out a new set of terms that better fits the online market? 

    • Good question Jeff. Since clients pay the bills with any type of agency, I think the convergence of disciplines will evolve a convergence of terminology.

  5. Avatar Elizabeth MacGahan says

    People are clearly using social media to shop. Go where the eyeballs — and wallets! — are.

  6. Avatar Ozio Media says

    I think it’s important for all brands to at least give a go to these 4 types of media. My advice is to explore your options when it comes to each type of media. It’s important to monitor all types of media and if one strategy isn’t working for you then make some changes or move on.

  7. Avatar Kmorganbey says

    In regards to earned and sharing media I feel that when its genuine the outcome of the buzz is well received. Many companies seem to go out of there way to sensationalize their message which in turn is viewed by the public as distasteful marketing. For example the HP add regarding the woman trapped with a laptop many of my associates have deemed the ad excessive and borderline offensive. Dealing in the theory of usages and gratification I feel that businesses would be well served to gear highly stylized ads to specific demographics and keep the mainstream media neutral as to not offend the masses.  

  8. Lee Great Article. Never thought about the entire media package this way. Lots of things I did not think of while I developed my site, thanks for sharing.
    Visizzle – Branding – Marketing – Design

  9. Hi Lee, We use the PONBE model which is Paid, Owned, Network, Borrowed and Earned. 

    I think our Borrowed is similar to your Shared, we use the word Borrowed as we feel it also covers offline activity like guerrilla activity i.e. the brand is only borrowing the media space.And we also took media and blogger relations out of Earned and created Network because we feel this activity is 1st generation audience exposure whilst WOM, viral and buzz are all beyond 1st generation.Full details of our PONBE model is here if you’re interested – http://slidesha.re/qHbZGr 

    • Thanks for sharing that Steve – my focus here is online but obviously there are plenty of integrated efforts. Appreciate the PONBE model.

  10. ‘Content Marketing’ around Owned media certainly seems to be so popular at the moment with available tools for people to start up their own sites. It can be a bit dawnting sifting through the paid products which are on the market to assist you. Some of the products just look like a ‘get rich quick scheme’ so you certainly have to be careful when buying along these lines.

  11. I have used all of these methods at one time or another. Mostly it’ been creating new content that is found through organic search. I’m just now getting into the press release option. 

    Social Networking sites are also great ways to drive traffic and get business. I happen to be an expert in marketing which helps.  I understand how the to effectively use social sites to grow my business.  However I’ve noticed that doesn’t apply to 85% of the people using them.

  12. Thanks for the link to this article Lee. Right now we are using a little bit of all media, mostly owned, and shared media.  

    One thing to remember with Shared and Owned medias is that they have to be a constant project. One should always take time to monitor and engage with consumers on social sites. Owned media needs to constantly be updated to stay relevant for search engines. 

  13. Avatar Dorianella says

    Thank you for this post, it has been very useful for my work.

  14. you have done a great work ………. its really working and important for us. so please keep sharing ….
    Branding and Advertising

  15. Would you class reviews on Yelp,Google +, and other social networking sites as earned media Lee. They seem much more powerful than just pr & media relationships ?

  16. Interesting terminology.

    How would you classify what we offer at TriplePundit.com? We produce 10-part article series on various topics. Each of these series gets a sponsor who has an interest in the topic. They’re usually invited to write one op/ed for the series, but they don’t have any control over the rest of the articles, only an advertisement on each one.

    It’s hard to explain to sponsors what this is because they’re so steeped in the lingo and this is really something of a hybrid offering. Once they get it, they love it, but it’s not obvious at first…