What Does It Mean? Earned, Owned, and Paid Media in 2020

What’s earned vs. owned vs. paid media? If you’re a professional marketer, you probably know the answer to the question above. At the very least, you should be familiar with the concepts.

Learning about the evolution of these terms can help your overall marketing strategy immensely, especially if you work in online channels.

Read on if you’ve ever second-guessed your decisions when it comes to where to focus your marketing efforts. Let’s do a deep dive and define earned, owned, and paid media and cover some predicted trends in 2020.

Definition of terms: Earned vs. owned vs. paid media

Have you ever heard of the acronym POEM? The letters spell out the first letters of the following words: paid, owned, earned media.

To properly sort your marketing materials and assets into these three categories, it helps to ask these questions: Who created the content? Who curated the audience? Who controls the distribution platform?

Once you’re familiar with the definitions of paid, owned, and earned media, you’ll find that they act as a solid foundation for any marketing strategy. The three are of particular note as a good framework for organizing and executing content-based campaigns.

What’s paid media?

This is what the average person thinks of as traditional advertising.

To simplify, paid media is anything that isn’t free to execute. Real-life examples include full-page advertisements in print media, TV commercials, banner ads on websites, sponsored tweets, boosted Facebook posts, online pay-per-click advertising, and more.

More specifically, paid media almost always involves a third party and money changing hands. You’re basically buying the right to reach an audience developed and maintained by someone else on a platform that’s not yours.

In the early days of the internet, people considered all digital marketing as paid media. Constantly evolving technology and society’s response to it have changed the game completely. Today, the assertion is no longer accurate.

Marketers can measure paid media performance through tracking metrics like clicks, conversions, or views. While paid media is relatively easy to manage—as long as you have the funds, that is—a huge problem is that it lacks longevity and staying power. When you stop paying for this type of media, its effectiveness decreases.

What’s owned media?

When you hold the rights to an asset or piece of content, it’s considered owned media.

Real-life examples include email lists built from scratch, photographs, press releases, physical product packaging, members’ brochures or catalogs, company websites and blogs, and more. The definition also covers content made for you by hired workers, as long as you spell out your eventual ownership of the finished product in signed contracts.

Some marketers also think of social media accounts—such as YouTube channels and Facebook pages—as owned media. Even though you technically don’t own the platform your social media accounts are on, you don’t pay for basic use and do own anything posted on them.

It’s important to note that owned media isn’t free media, even though it’s separate from the earlier-defined paid media. Creating and maintaining these assets and outlets does incur costs included as expenses in ROI calculations.

Measuring owned media isn’t an issue for physical examples, but digital content measurement can be tricky. You can look at site traffic, email list signups, or conversions, but, if you’re employing more than one type of media in digital marketing, results may only point to combined effectiveness.

What’s earned media?

Of the three types of media covered by POEM, earned media is hardest to understand by the term alone. The easiest way to explain it to the average person is to refer to it as free publicity.

Earned media is the result of the public and the press voluntarily sharing your content and talking about your brand without prompting or payment. Customer reviews are great examples of this, as well as social media mentions. SEO rankings may also fall under the definition of earned media.

In other words, earned media is something related to your brand created for free by someone else. True forms of this type of media enter public consciousness organically, without the help of traditional advertising.

You might be wondering: is word-of-mouth marketing synonymous with earned media? In general, yes—unless the term points to referral marketing. The latter may be organic, but it’s often not free, due to incentives brands offer for referral program participation.

It’s worth pointing out that earned media doesn’t make for an effective campaign on its own. It’s usually supported by owned or paid media.

For example: 78% of consumers say that social media posts by brands impact their buying behavior. This also leads to prospects and customers talking about these brands on their own accounts—an example of owned media preceding the creation of earned media.

Evolution of terms: Beyond earned vs. owned vs. paid media

In the past, most marketing campaigns centered on paid media—amplified and supported by owned and earned media. While POEM remains a marketing constant, each year, the definitions of the three categories become less definitive and all-encompassing.

The new digital landscape—brought about by the internet and social media—has blurred lines between media types.

POEM has evolved with the times, notably into the PESO model. Another recent rethinking of POEM is the POGLE model.

What’s the PESO Model and what does it add to POEM?

PR professional Gini Dietrich debuted the PESO model in 2014. PESO stands for four types of media: paid, earned, shared, and owned.

While public relations isn’t exactly the same as marketing, the PESO model is popular with publicists and marketers alike. The framework adapts to suit either industry, albeit imperfectly. In PR, the PESO model measures how assets help establish and improve brand authority. In marketing, it helps categorize and organize content and communication channels.

Let’s focus on shared media, something not part of POEM. Under the PESO model, shared media is what your brand creates for distribution to an audience on a third-party platform, such as your social posts.

The definition may apply to other entities’ creations too. Collaborative materials and some user-generated content can fall under shared media.

What’s the POGLE Model and what does it add to POEM?

Author and Litmus research director Chad White floated the idea of the POGLE model in his recent book. POGLE stands for five types of media: paid, owned, granted, leased, and earned.

Before settling on the POGLE model, White thought of only one addition to POEM. In the past, he asserted that social media was an example of rented media. He also considered email marketing as earned media—because brands earn the right to email subscribers through honoring opt-ins and following ISP rules.

White’s additions—granted and leased media—find their footing through defining who controls the platforms that distribute the content to categorize. Under the POGLE model, email marketing and SMS marketing are examples of granted media. Open platforms make for easy distribution of assets.

Leased media, on the other hand, includes content distributed on a closed platform controlled by a sole third party. Examples of leased media range from social marketing to mobile apps.

3 predictions relating to earned vs. owned vs. paid media in 2020

What’s in store for marketers categorizing content and communications via POEM in the near future? Read on for a brief discussion of three emerging trends in 2020.

1. Prioritizing owned and shared media

More than 35% of PR people believe in the value of both owned and shared media.

There’s a marked decrease in confidence when it comes to traditional marketing channels, such as paid advertising. Earned media also appears less reliable than other types, as it’s tied to the development and evolution of social channels.

2. Combining two or more types of media

Melded POEM categories—notably in the form of social media marketing and influencer marketing—will likely flourish in the coming years.

Here’s a concrete example of using all of POEM: You can create owned media like blog content to share on social media accounts. The organic buzz generated counts as earned media. To extend the reach of your blog content, though, you may turn the social share into a sponsored post.

3. Experimenting with new content formats

Don’t get stuck with what you know and do perfectly. If you want to stand out, it’s worth dipping your toes into fresh ways of creating content. You may even extend this idea to looking into new sharing platforms.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be cutting edge like VR or augmented reality. Anything unfamiliar and unexplored by your brand will suffice. Even though the concept’s been around for a while, you can create a podcast series to reach a new audience. If you’ve completely focused on text so far, you can take a smaller leap of faith and try video marketing.

Wrap up

To understand earned vs. owned vs. paid media in 2020, it’s essential to brush up on POEM definitions:

  • Paid media: this is any marketing asset that isn’t free to execute or distribute.
  • Owned media: when you create or hold the rights to a piece of content, it falls in this category.
  • Earned media: anything made about you by others counts. You may think of this as free publicity.

POEM has evolved in the last decade into the more widespread PESO model, which includes shared media. Another recent revision is the POGLE model, which adds granted and leased media to the mix.

Here are three predicted trends for marketers still categorizing content and communications using earned vs. owned vs. paid media in 2020:

  • Prioritizing owned and shared media
  • Combining two or more types of media
  • Experimenting with new content formats

Interested in crafting and adjusting your email campaigns to account for more upcoming trends? Read about the more effective marketing strategies for 2020 today.

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