With the proliferation of social media sites, the idea of “earned media” as an essential marketing tool has risen. But does that mean that earned media are of greater value than paid media? To answer that question we first need to understand their differences. As an experienced digital agency based in Cyprus, I decided to write a short post explaining what each refers to.

Diagram on media

Source of image: The difference between paid, owned and earned media, Smart Insights – July 2012

Here are some basic definitions, to help you understand what each stands for, and how you can increase your earned media to your owned media properties.

Paid media

As per the definition implies, paid or bought media are media where you need to pay to drive traffic to your “owned media”. In traditional offline channels these can be in the form of:
– Print ads
– TV ads
– Sponsorships
– Mailers.

In the digital world these can be:
– Display / banner advertising
– Search advertising (e.g. Google AdWords)
– Social network advertising (e.g. promoted posts on Facebook or Sponsored tweets)

Earned media

According to Wikipedia, earned media activity relates to a company or brand that is not directly generated by the company or its agents but rather by other entities such as customers. It is the publicity gained through promotional efforts other than advertising. A Nielsen study in 2013 found that earned media (also described in the report as online word-of-mouth) is the most trusted source of information in all countries it surveyed worldwide. It also found that earned media is the channel most likely to stimulate the consumer to action.

This can be attributed to your hilarious video on YouTube, on your constantly engaging Twitter account, your inspiring posts on Facebook, on your engaging photos on Instagram prompting someone to create a positive piece of content for you or share your original content further. This can include:
– Shares
– Facebook Likes
– Retweets
– YouTube comments
– Bloggers commenting about your service.

Owned media

These are simply all the online properties which you control. And can be:
– Your website
– Your Mobile site
– Retail stores (online and offline)
– Blogs
– Social media channels
– Apps.

Yet as popular as these terms have become, they’re often loosely applied across the industry and essentially no one is speaking the same language. Forrester Research defined them in 2009, to shed some light to those seeking answers and clarifications:

Definitions of media

And where does SEO fit in?

A good SEO strategy will help you build you “owned properties”.  What good is a website or social media site if no one is seeing or interacting with it? As SEO can help you improve your organic ranking, therefore driving more traffic to your online properties. The more traffic you drive, and the more viral, and shared your content becomes then you increase your earned media. So, SEO can be seen as the bridge between owned and earned media. Albeit it does not matter which occurs first. Paid, owned or earned.


All types of media are important to a digital strategy. It’s up to you to decide how you will allocate your resources to realize your online marketing and business goals.

Owned media sites are an extension of your brand in the online world. The more channels you have, provided that you can keep them up to date and maintain them, the more you can spread your message and drive more traffic to your properties.

Earned media is also known as the online word of mouth and is the vehicle to drives traffic to your owned media. This combined with a solid SEO strategy, coupled with a solid content strategy can help you tremendously.

Paid media is the way to promote your brand to generate more earned media and drive traffic directly to your owned media properties.

Do the above make sense to you now?

If you need help to increase your earned media to drive more traffic to your owned media contact us, an experience web digital agency in Cyprus, via [email protected].