The difference between earned, paid and owned media

    Earned, paid and owned media are terms you may have heard bandied around by PR, marketing and digital specialists.

    But, what do they mean?

    In short, they all play a unique role in building brand exposure, engagement, and trust for your business. In order to reach the most number of people in the most cost-effective way, it is worth understanding the differences between all three and how they complement each other.


    Earned media

    Earned media is exposure you have gained through word-of-mouth, viral content, or mentions in external publications.

    It can be achieved through media coverage, positive reviews, reposts on social media, or recommendations on your website.

    Unlike paid or owned media, earned media is not directly controlled or purchased by your business. Instead, it is a testament to your brand’s credibility and resonance with your audience.

    The key characteristic of earned media is that is it organic and often the result of positive customer experiences, compelling content, or impactful storytelling.

    This type of exposure can be incredibly powerful, as it carries the weight of third-party validation and therefore trust and credibility.

    Paid media

    Paid media is advertising which costs you money. It drives exposure across various channels, including online advertising, television commercials, print ads, and sponsored content.

    Paid media provides control over when and where your content appears, making it an effective tool for reaching specific target audiences.

    The primary advantage of paid media is its ability to amplify reach quickly. By investing in advertising space, you can ensure your content reaches a broader audience, driving brand awareness, and potentially attracting new customers.

    Paid media is also highly measurable, allowing marketers to track the performance of their campaigns and optimise them for better results.

    Owned media

    Owned media is the content you create and control for your brand.

    While it can appear in various formats – website content, blog posts, case studies, social media profiles, company marketing documents – any platform where you create and distribute content for your business. The main goal is to continue providing value to your customers and your brand.

    Owned media is entirely managed by you, providing full creative control and flexibility about your brand and business. It allows you to remain transparent with your audience and offers opportunities for them to engage with you. It fosters brand loyalty and allows for in-depth storytelling and relationship-building

    This type of media is a crucial component of an overarching marketing strategy which complements both earned and paid media.


    While each type of media has its unique strengths, the most successful marketing strategies often involve an deliberate integration of all three. Leveraging earned media for its authenticity, paid media for its reach, and owned media for its control. Understanding the differences between earned, paid, and owned media is critical for any business owner and their marketing teams. By strategically incorporating each type into a comprehensive marketing strategy, business can build a robust online presence, foster customer loyalty, and stay ahead in an increasingly competitive market.

    The team at Adoni Media specialises in earned media and has been providing proven results for our clients during the past 11 years. To explore what it would be like to work with some of the best media minds in the country: