Bought, Owned & Earned media types

After speaking with someone recently about the different types of media that a company or organisation can make use, I thought I should put a short article together to cover this in more detail.

To clarify, this article is pertaining to forms of “online media” only and is not written with traditional “offline media” in mind.

Basically, I was explaining the different characteristics of bought, owned and earned media. I have briefly outlined the differences between these media types below:


Different Media Types

Bought – This ultimately refers to Paid forms of media. This can be anything from pay-per-click (PPC), display advertising, banner adverting or any other form of advertising where you part with money in order to have the privilege to promote you company.

Owned – Owned media comprises primarily of media types you have almost absolute control over. In fact, for most companies their website will be the only true “Owned media” slice of pie, although you can also have micro sites, external blogs, etc. Some debate that Facebook Pages and Twitter accounts are owned media, and in a sense they are. However, you have virtually no control over the companies that own these platforms and they could be taken away from you at any time, or the site could be shut down. Additionally, you don’t have full control of content via these channels as people external to your company (fans, competitors, etc.) can post almost whatever they want at any given time.

Earned – The influence of Earned media can help propel a brand to heights not previously imagined. This is the type of media you can’t buy no matter how much you want to, as all earned media is essentially “free” in a sense (it is commonly understood that the majority of earned media is filtered through from paid and owned marketing activities). Earned media is mostly made up of word of mouth (WOM) and favourable reputation.


Distinctly Distorted

These types of media are not actually so clean cut and the lines are blurred between the 3. For example, a Facebook fan page is combination of owned (the page), bought (the ads) and earned (the engagement). Although I’m not going to delve too deeply into how these media types overlap and interrelate with each other, as that is an entire article in itself.


The battle between Reach and Control

The major point I want to highlight in this article is the amount of control and reach you have with these different types of media. The further you move along the scale from bought to earned media, the more you lose control of these media types. The barriers to entry on bought media are low, which is ultimately attributed to cheap and easily accessible advertising via platforms such as Facebook ads, AdWords, Banner Advertising, etc. In addition to this, one can virtually setup a website for free and Twitter and Facebook pages are free, only requiring the owner’s time. I have described these relationships in the figure below:

bought owned earned media


You have to realise that earned media is almost always due to a direct reaction from your bought media endeavours, however you can’t control whether the attention you gain will always be favourable. And if you want to succeed you have to plan and properly execute a well-defined marketing strategy that harnesses the bought and owned media types advantageously, which in turn will exploit the earned media in a way that should gainfully influence the business objectives of your company.

Dan Petrovic, the managing director of DEJAN, is Australia’s best-known name in the field of search engine optimisation. Dan is a web author, innovator and a highly regarded search industry event speaker.

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