Earned media

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Earned media (or free media) refers to publicity gained through promotional efforts other than advertising, as opposed to paid media, which refers to publicity gained through advertising.[1]


There are many types of media available to online marketers and fit into the broad categories: owned, paid, and earned media. Owned media is defined as communication channels that are within one's control, such as websites, blogs, or email; while paid media refers mostly to traditional advertising. Earned media, on the other hand, is generated when content receives recognition and a following outside of traditional paid advertising, through communication channels such as social media and word of mouth.[2]

Earned media often refers specifically to publicity gained through editorial influence, whereas social media refers to publicity gained through grassroots action, particularly on the Internet. The media may include any mass media outlets, such as newspaper, television, radio, and the Internet, and may include a variety of formats, such as news articles or shows, letters to the editor, editorials, and polls on television and the Internet. Critically, earned media cannot be bought or owned, it can only be gained organically, hence the term 'earned'.

Impact of Earned Media

A Nielsen study in 2013 found that earned media (also described in the report as word-of-mouth) is the most trusted source of information in all countries it surveyed worldwide. It also found that earned media is the channel most likely to stimulate the consumer to action. Other authorities make the distinction between online and offline earned media / word-of-mouth, and have shown that offline word-of-mouth has been found to be more effective than online word-of-mouth.

Many consider earned media to be the most cost effective method of marketing. As a result, many companies are investing in earned media. The increased use of earned media is converging traditional owned and paid methods of marketing.[2]

Examples of paid, owned and earned media[3]
Type Definition Offline Examples Online Examples
Paid Media activity related to a company or brand that is generated by the company or its agents
  • Traditional advertising (e.g., television, radio, print, outdoor)
  • Sponsorships
  • Direct Mail
  • Display/banner advertising
  • Search advertising (e.g. Google AdWords)
  • Social network advertising (e.g. Facebook ads)
  • Electronic direct mail (e.g., email advertising)
Owned Media activity related to a company or brand that is generated by the company or its agents in channels it controls
  • Retail in-store visual merchandising or displays
  • Brochures
  • Company press releases
  • Company/brand website
  • Company/brand blog
  • Company-owned pages/accounts in online social networks (e.g., Twitter account, Facebook brand page)
Earned Media activity related to a company or brand that is not directly generated by the company or its agents but rather by other entities such as customers or journalists
  • Traditional publicity mentions in professional media outlets
  • Ratings and reviews in TMOs (e.g., movie reviews)
  • Consumer-to-consumer WOM conversations about products, including advice and referrals
  • Consumers showing or demonstrating products to each other
  • Traditional publicity mentions in digital media outlets (e.g., professional blogs)
  • Online WOM referrals (e.g., invitations to join a website)
  • Post in online communities or social networks (e.g., status updates, tweets)
  • Online ratings and reviews (e.g., Yelp.com for restaurants, Amazon.com for products)

The increasing use of earned media has provided marketers with new ways in which to interact and engage their customers. These innovative approaches are replacing traditional marketing methods such as email and banner ads, and provide innovative methods to find, optimize, and measure return on earned media investments.[2]


  1. "Earned media". Word Spy. Paul McFedries and Logophilia Limited. Retrieved 2008-06-18. earned media n. Free media coverage, such as a news story or opinion piece.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Yu, Jim. "Earned Media Rising - The Earned Media Ripple Effect". Column: Social Media Marketing Column. Marketing Land. Retrieved 3 April 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Stephen, A.T. & Galak, J. (October 2012). "The Effects of Traditional and Social Earned Media on Sales: A Study of a Microlending Marketplace". Journal of Marketing Research: 625.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

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