What is owned, earned, shared and paid media?

So often we hear people talking about fuzzy terminology such as “earned,” “owned,” “shared” or “paid” media… But what do they really mean, and how important are they?

Image taken from Gini Dietrichs' Spinsucks.com

Image taken from Gini Dietrichs’ Spinsucks.com


Owned media is the most essential outlet because you control the content published here. Owned media is particularly important for new businesses. If they have an active Facebook or Instagram page, but no website to certify credibility, then arguably their sales will not reach full potential as a direct result of this.

Owned media stays online forever and provides you with an original online presence which can be shared on whichever fad social media platform is the most popular today. You should visualise owned media as a mini asset, Gini Dietrich states “the content you own creates a brand personality, helps extend your network, and brings prospective clients and/or customers to your website, where you can manage the marketing funnel.”


Earned media is the publicity your company receives. If everyone using the product or service that you’re providing enjoy it, then earned media is like golden nectar. However, if they receive a different experience to the one you promoted and promised them, then it can be critically damaging to both sales and reputation. This is where PR comes in to the mix. Earned media can be a make-or-break tool and it’s worth discussing what can happen when it goes wrong…

Let’s imagine you are providing your consumers with a type of skincare. Some consumers report a rash breaking out on their skin as result of using your produce. They tell their friends, write bad reviews and some even upload pictures to Twitter and Facebook, explaining their itchy experience. Eventually, local media outlets hear about it and a few decide to cover the story. The TV or Radio packages they produce are plastered with pictures and descriptions of this prickling mess your product has made… I think it’s safe to say that as a result of earned media, you are left with a potentially tarnished reputation.


This is where your social media channels become integrated to give you a more dominant online presence. Whilst shared media is a fantastic opportunity to interact with your consumers, it’s important that we don’t become too reliant on these channels because they can easily become yesterday’s news as new organisations and social media outlets are created. This is why Owned media is so important, because it always remains the original source, no matter where it’s being shared.

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Paid media is the most established outlet out of all four. Here we see things like traditional TV/radio ads and more recently sponsored tweets and Instagram posts. Paid media can be cost prohibitive for many companies, especially if they’re relatively new. Paid media is still a great way of reaching potential consumers. Nonetheless, with people becoming more media savvy and reliant on WOM (word of mouth), paid media has to be innovative and creative for it to remain relative, credible and interesting to the consumer.

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