Paid, Owned, and Earned Media Models Explained in Simple Terms

Like any other industry, social media marketing is packed with complex concepts. With so many different metrics, quickly changing benchmarks, and new platforms constantly cropping up, it can be hard to stay on top of critical jargon. However, if you’ve got a business that needs to up its online presence, there are some models that you need to know about.

Paid, earned, and owned media are the models that make up your whole digital marketing strategy. If you have any online materials, then they make up at least one of these three. Each one helps you grow your brand, generate leads, and meet your business goals, so you need to understand how to make the most of them if you’re going to maximize your marketing ROI.

Keep reading to understand the differences between paid, owned, and earned media and how to use each of them to grow your company’s online presence.

Paid Media

Paid media includes any marketing strategy or material that you pay to implement. When someone outside the world of marketing thinks of advertising, this is what they assume it’s all about.

Examples of paid media

The channels of paid media are almost always advertisements. This can be any type of advertisement you see online: banner ads, Facebook ads, pay-per-click ads, display ads, etc. Paid media can also include video sponsorships or sponsored content on third-party websites.

Some companies opt for print ads, which is another form of paid media. However, when you put your ad in a magazine or up on a billboard, it can be difficult to pinpoint its success. People may see your ad and buy your product from it, but you can’t track the customer journey to understand why they did so.

Paid media: pros and cons

You want to make sure you’re spending advertising dollars on paid media wisely. The budget can be expended quickly if you haven’t done the proper research to target the right people. Consider these pros and cons of paid media before purchasing any ads.


  • Receive results immediately—people click on ad links right away to visit your content
  • Track what types of people are clicking to understand who your product or service appeals to
  • Complete control of the message that you’re sending because you write the ads
  • Easy to target the right people for your brand


  • You only receive leads for as long as you’re paying for the ad—once the campaign ends, so does your lead generation
  • ROI varies widely—ads become more expensive as competition increases in your niche
  • Costs the most of the three main types of marketing models

How to use paid media

Most people use paid media to grow their owned media (see more on that in the next section). If you’re just starting, you can use paid media to drive more traffic to your website or social media pages and secure more leads for your company.

When you use paid media, you dictate the types of people that your ad will target. For example, when you pay for a Facebook ad, you can target your ad to reach certain people by age, location, gender, language, and more. If you want to target women in their 50s in California for your skincare product that guards against skin damage in dry heat, paid media is a great way to do so.

Owned Media

Any part of your content strategy online that belongs to you falls under the umbrella of owned media. If you make it and it has a permanent spot on the internet, that counts as owned media.

Examples of owned media

A company’s website is often the biggest piece of owned media they have. You need to keep your website updated and user-friendly if you want people to take your brand seriously. 81% of consumers think less of a brand if its website is outdated. Other common channels include email marketing, podcasts, and online events—think webinars, Q&As, or virtual workshops.

A huge share of owned media takes place on your social media accounts via posts, stories, tweets, reels, and videos. Video social media marketing in particular hits home with consumers. By this year, 82% of all consumer internet traffic will include video.

Owned media: pros and cons

Owned media costs less than paid media—though costs are variable—and carries a high return on investment. But there are challenges with it as well.


  • Drives ROI as long as it remains live (similar to paid media)
  • Builds trust over time with your audiences as long as you produce engaging or helpful content
  • Increases your brand awareness online


  • Missteps can create negative publicity
  • It’s time-consuming to create original content
  • You have to share your content consistently or it won’t generate and sustain an audience

How to use owned media

Use owned media to create a following online through social media, blog posts, and email marketing. When you create helpful, funny, or emotionally engaging content, people are more likely to trust your brand. They may even share your content with their own networks, which expands your brand’s reach to your followers’ friends, family, and colleagues.

Earned Media

Earned media includes any time that your posts gain exposure or are seen outside of one of your company’s channels.

Anytime your content is liked, shared, or retweeted, that becomes earned media. Because someone other than your company is talking about what you do (favorably), it makes other people trust your brand more.

Earned media often happens organically, but you can also pay social media influencers or thought leaders in your industry with free products for them to review in exchange for a shout-out online.

Examples of earned media

Since any recommendation online can be earned media, it takes many forms. The most common earned media is obtained through social media channels when users like, comment on, or share your content. However, it can also include other websites or news articles linking to your company’s website.

Earned media: pros and cons

Earned media is a great way to get the word out about your brand and help your company appear more trustworthy to consumers. But it can be difficult to calculate ROI accurately.


  • Earned media helps audiences trust you more because someone else is recommending your brand
  • More people will find out about your services, extending your reach
  • Earned media can help you build thought leadership (showing your expertise)


  • It can be difficult to measure the ROI of earned media
  • Because you’re relying on other people, earned media is outside your company’s control
  • Earned media may lead to negative press if you aren’t sufficiently engaged in online conversations about your brand

How to use earned media

Certain strategies can help your company gain recognition with earned media. Utilize SEO (search engine optimization) so that your website spools up faster on Google’s search engine and your posts correspond with the correct search terms and hashtags on social media.

Implement employee advocacy programs to encourage staff to post company links on their personal social media pages. People are 16 times more likely to read a post from a friend about a brand than the company’s actual post. Your employees can be a huge asset when it comes to earned media, so you should make the process as easy for them as possible.

Level Up Your Earned Media with Clearview Social

To amplify your earned media strategy, use the best tool at your disposal: your employees. To make it as simple as possible for your employees to share online, use Clearview Social’s straightforward employee advocacy software.

Clearview Social offers:

  • One-click email sharing, which lets you send an email full of pre-approved content that your employees can share in seconds
  • Article queue builders that help you copy and paste links to create posts in advance
  • The opportunity to share social content when your target audience is online with PeakTime AI, which knows the best time to post for you

Take your reach online from zero to through your employees by Getting A Free Demo with Clearview Social today.