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The terms "earned, owned and paid (aka bought) media" have become very popular in the interactive marketing space today. In fact, taken together they can be applied as a simple way for interactive marketers to categorize and ultimately prioritize all of the media options they have today. Nokia was an early pioneer in this space (see Dan Goodall's posts on the subject). They now categorize all of their global interactive media as earned, owned or bought. Many agencies, including R/GA, Critical Mass, Sapient and Isobar (my former employer) also use the model to help develop digital strategies. On top of that, many industry leaders such as Pete Blackshaw, Fred Wilson and David Armano have written about the subject.

Yet as popular as these themes have become, they're often loosely applied across the industry and essentially no one is speaking the same language. Therefore we just published research defining each type of media and providing interactive marketers with prescriptive advice on how to best apply them. Here's a summary of how we defined each type of online media and their roles:

Earned owned paid charat 

Ultimately these types of media work best together but making the hard choices of what to include and what not to include is crucial - especially when budgets are tight. But if you simply start by categorizing your media and identifying the right roles based on your objectives, then your on the right path. Here are some high level takeaways that you should consider when developing your 2010 interactive media strategy:

  • Create a solar system of owned media. Owned media is a channel you control. There is fully-owned media (like your website) and partially-owned media (like Facebook fan page or Twitter account). Owned media creates brand portability. Now you can extend your brand's presence beyond your web site so that it exists in many places across the web - specifically through social media sites and unique communities. In a recession in which marketing budgets are being cut by 20%, the ability to communicate directly with consumers who want to engage with your brand through long-term relationships can be invaluable.  
  • Recognize that earned media is a result of brand behavior. "Earned media" is an old PR term that essentially meant getting your brand into free media rather than having to pay for it through advertising. However the term has evolved into the transparent and permanent word-of-mouth that is being created through social media. You need to learn how to listen and respond to both the good (positive organic) and bad (spurned) as well as consider when to try and stimulate earned media through word-of-mouth marketing.
  • Your paid media is not dead, but it is evolving into a catalyst. Many people are predicting the end of paid media (aka advertising). However, that prediction may be premature as no other type of media can guarantee the immediacy and scale that paid media can. However, paid media is shifting away from the foundation and evolving into a catalyst that is needed at key periods to drive more engagement(e.g. Q4 holidays).

Sean, What does one label


What does one label performance based media, where both a channel owner and brand share the risk of a display ad (or other instrument), and payment from the brand to the channel is based upon the performance of the display ad that was displayed on said channel?

I would appreciate your insight.

machine a souce

If the profit of a group network is to lash with other people, you prerequisite a communal network that has masses of members. And Facebook once has lavishness of members, in defiance of all the adversative publicity it has received lately give its solitude problems. force all 500 million Facebook users move house to Google Me? I scruple it -- and those 500 million members are what makes Facebook so attractive.

Why are we only looking at digital?

Paid, Owned and Earned Media (POEM) is a great way to dissect a brand and it's marketing initiatives in the Planning process. But why are you only focussing on digital? POEM should be media agnostic. TV/Radio/Print is paid media. A bricks and mortar store is owned media. The employees uniform is owned. The trucks used to distribute your goods is owned. We should not be limiting ourselves to only digital, it's a disserve to a Brand.

When you plan holistically, you get a better understanding of where the gaps are, but at the same time give you opportunities to do wonderful things. People do not consume Brands in silos, we shouldn't plan that way either.

twitter: @tribal

I provide me with a link to

I provide me with a link to the Pepsi Case Study.

Pepsi Case Study


Some time has passed, but I would really like to see the Pepsi case study as well - could someone povide me with a link?

New Direction Or Cluttered Thinking?

Hey Sean

A colleague pointed me toward your post. He described SEO as "Earned" in a recent meeting and I thought- "Cool! Here's a possible new way of grouping & thinking about our digital initiatives." Would you put SEO into owned because of the technical aspect in site optimization, earned for its social aspect, or both?

Paid seems like the only one of the three that's cut & dry. If you spent $ it's paid, got it. The other two seem to hugely overlap. Maybe my brain hasn't had the Aha moment yet, but this type of categorization seems loaded with the potential to create more confusion than clarity. Social media efforts exist on owned properties but generate earned visits? Who gets the credit?

Thanks again for tackling this topic!


You're absolutely right

I write my research to interactive marketers and therefore was focusing on how POEM applies to the digital mix, but we all should remember that this works best holistically.

re: Defining Earned, Owned And Paid Media

The "owned media" is a great aspect to this conversation and one I don't hear a lot of people talk about. All aspects seem to work together (or should) in the example of launching a new product: paid media drives initial awareness of the product, owned media is where people go to find out more, and earned media is where they tell people about it and spread it around.

Great post.

re: Defining Earned, Owned And Paid Media

Hi Guys,

Can anyone provide me with a link to the Pepsi Case Study? Thankyou