Earned, Bought & Owned: It's All Media to Me

Pinterest facebook twitter linkedin posted by on August 24, 1:25,
Earned Bought and Owned Media

The Brand Evolution of Media

The last few years, marketing people everywhere have been talking about earned, bought (or paid) and owned media. It’s a simple concept really—separating your media into three different categories:

The best kind of media—free. It includes buzz, word of mouth, news articles and viral videos.

Media you pay for. It includes display advertising, paid search, sponsorships, traditional media, etc.

Includes all the corporate communications you control—your website, mobile sites, blogs, twitter postings, and more.

Forrester Research even posted a handy chart on their website, just to make sure everyone’s clear on the definitions. The problem is, everyone ISN’T clear. As popular as these terms have become, people in the industry just don’t agree on the details.

For example, which category does PR fit into? Some media people say owned, while others say earned. And a few deep thinkers (with a straight face I might add) claim that press releases are owned, while the resulting news coverage is earned.

Then there’s Twitter. All those tweets you’ve been posting are owned media, right? But what about retweets? Can the same 140 characters be owned and earned at the same time?

And don’t forget Facebook. With 158 million unique visitors in the U.S. alone, it’s a great place for marketers to display owned media (a company Facebook page), run bought media (Facebook-sponsored ads) and gather earned media, too (Facebook likes and shares).

That’s right—Facebook fits into all three categories at the SAME TIME.

Confusing, huh? But wait, there’s more. Those categories you’re separating your media into aren’t really all that separate. Media in one category can affect media in another. For example, social media promotions often blur the line between owned and earned (tweets and Facebook postings can result in retweets, pokes, and other earned media). And bought media often drives media in other categories (like when TV and radio spots include a web address or hashtag in their call to action).


In our opinion, “earned,” “bought” and “owned” have become unnecessary buzzwords—the latest additions to the already confusing litany of media terminology, including OOH, ROI, CPM, CPA, CPC, PPC, DRM, D2C, CRM, CTR… (Please, make it stop!)

Media and marketing are already confusing enough, with more unnecessary terms and acronyms than most people can remember. The last thing we need is to add more. Besides, as demonstrated above, the terms earned, bought and owned aren’t all that meaningful anymore. The lines between them are getting blurrier every day.

Here’s an idea. How about we just lump everything together into one big melting pot and call it what it is—MEDIA.

Trust us. Understanding your audience and how it uses each medium is much more important than what you call the categories.

What do you think? We’d love to hear from you. Whether you agree or have a different perspective, reach out on Twitter to chime in on earned/bought/owned.


About the author:

Olivia “Liv” McKinsey is Digital Director at The Partnership and has been in the interactive industry for 10 years. She won an OMMA Magazine “Rising Media Star” award in 2005, and knows the definition of every one of those media terms. You can email her at omckinsey@thepartnership.com.