Owned Media VS Earned Media: Which Yields Better Results

How Owned Media and Earned Media Differ

Owned Media VS Earned MediaOwned media vs earned media—Which should you use to distribute your content marketing?

Not sure they’re different?

Don’t worry. You’re not alone.

For marketers, the distinction between owned media and earned media is blurred. Both owned media and earned media appear to be free ways to distribute content. (BTW—Here’s a list of 37 content distribution options.)

Owned media VS earned media defined

Owned media: Is a media entity that encompasses the publishing platforms you or your organization own. They include:

  • Online: Your website, mobile apps, blog, email newsletters, ebooks, presentations and/or other email communications.
  • Offline: Your catalog, handouts, newsletters, magazines, product packaging, and/or correspondence.
  • In real life: Your retail establishment, conferences and/or other live or online events.

Earned media: Isn’t a true media platform at all. Rather earned media is a marketing approach that’s akin to word of mouth (WOM). It aims to get people, especially customers, influencers, and other media entities, talking about your company and/or brand.

MRY’s David Berkowitz expresses this best: “Earned media is any content created about a marketer or brand that wasn’t directly created or commissioned by that marketer.” (Check out how 37 other marketing experts defined earned media.)

Owned media VS earned media across 7 key factors

To better understand how owned media versus earned media works for your business, let’s examine them across 7 salient marketing attributes.Owned Media VS Earned Media

Marketing goals

Owned media supports your business by extending your brand recognition and thought leadership, earned media attracts a broader audience and enhances your credibility.

Owned media

  • Build brand. Extend your brand by incorporating your 360° brand into your content’s look, voice and presentation.
  • Support purchase cycle. Provide information at every step of the buying cycle.
  • Establish thought leadership. Become known in your category as an influencer. It doesn’t have to be your c-suite; it can be a technical expert.

Earned media:

  • Add credibility to your business. Get people to hear your name so they recognize it. Remember that people need to hear something at least 5-7 times before believing it.
  • Increase traffic. Encourages readers to visit more of your content, hopefully on an owned channel where you can get them to share their email address with you.
  • Support the purchase journey. Provide key information buyers actively seek during the purchase cycle. (Here’s how earned media can effect the purchase cycle.)

 Get your content marketing on track with this checklist.



The difference between owned media and earned media audiences is the depth of the connection. Further, you can contact your own audience directly without an intermediary.

Owned media:

  • Consist of hand raisers who’ve shown an interest in your content. Includes prospects, customers and past buyers. An organization’s owned audience tends to be relatively small (It’s one of the reasons marketers use advertising to broadcast their message.)
  • Have the ability to contact your connections directly.

Earned media:

  • Encompass a broad cross section of people who discovered your content via social media, word of mouth or the press. While it’s got a broader reach, these readers tend to care more about the actual information or the person who referred it to them.
  • Include press release recipients and readers.

 Get your content marketing on track with this checklist.


Media focus

The key difference is that you control the media environment and context for owned media. Since you don’t control earned media, it can have added credibility with readers. 

Owned media:

  • Is related to your business and products. It integrates your branding and voice. As a result, it appears to be pushing your agenda.

Earned media:

  • Varies based on the specific channel or media entity, including social media and personal one-to-one communications. The key element is that you don’t control it or the context of your information.

 Get your content marketing on track with this checklist.


Content creation

Don’t underestimate the cost of owned media content, either direct or indirect.

Owned media:

  • Created by your staff, customers and/or agencies. Even if it developed within your organization, it has a cost. At a minimum, there’s your employee time. It’s lower cost than other media options since you’re not paying to rent the media.

Earned media:

  • Leverages other media entities’ content creation.

 Get your content marketing on track with this checklist.



Both owned media and earned media benefit from requiring less resources. Earned media does have the power of third party endorsement.

Owned media:

  • Control your media entity. You determine what’s presented and promoted. (Note: Can overcome challenges with other entities such as search.)
  • Is published on your timeframe. You can modify your publishing schedule and editorial calendar if necessary.
  • Cost less. You don’t need to pay for media use (as you would with third party content.)

 Earned media:

  • Is credible since it’s created and distributed by third parties. (Note: Based on Edelman’s Trust Barometer, use technical employees to improve your owned media credibility.)

 Get your content marketing on track with this checklist.



Both owned media and earned media have their drawbacks. Owned media’s reach can be smaller than needed to get your message across and earned media can be negative.

Owned media:

  • Tends to have a limited audience. Most organizations lack the resources to build their internal lists.
  • Can easily be ignored. Don’t assume that having someone on your list means that you’ll be able to get through. Your communications may be relegated to a junk file.

Earned media:

  • Can be negative. You don’t control the message. As a result, it can be positive or negative towards your organization. Even worse, public opinion can change quickly with one misstep.
  • Lack ability to schedule interactions. You can’t tell when, where or how big the impact of your earned media activity will be.
  • May not scale to meet your needs.

 Get your content marketing on track with this checklist.



Resources is a fancy word for expenses.

Owned media:

  • Requires internal support to build and maintain a house file. Beyond the marketing to entice prospects to join your email list, you need systems and processes to keep it up-to-date.
  • Needs employees (or budget) to create the information and platform.

Earned media:

  • Is supported by PR professionals. They can be internal staff or agencies.
  • Requires listening to what’s being said about you and your organization and responding. This translates to monitoring technology and customer support or social media engagement.
  • May require supporting advertising. Sometimes you need to boost your earned media efforts.

 Get your content marketing on track with this checklist.


Both owned media and earned media help you distribute your content marketing to the maximum possible audience.

The key difference: You can control the message, branding, timing and context of the information on owned media.

By contrast, earned media extends your reach and provides credibility that your organization needs.

How else do owned media and earned media differ?

(BTW–Here are 50 (almost) Free Ways To Re-promote your content.)

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Photo Credit: http://pixabay.com/en/game-sport-back-american-football-107387/

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