Content Marketing
What Are Paid, Owned, and Earned Media, and Which Drives More ROI?

What Are Paid, Owned, and Earned Media, and Which Drives More ROI?

April 7, 2022
5 min read

As a content marketer, there are numerous channels and strategies at your disposal. One of the most critical aspects of using content marketing is managing your paid, owned, and earned media.

They actually all work together to drive traffic and conversions. Some come with a higher investment, and others have a more impactful ROI (return on investment).

In this post, we’ll break down each type of media, how to use them in content marketing, and which one provides the best ROI.

Quick Takeaways:

  • Paid, owned, and earned media are three parts of a digital marketing strategy.
  • Each type of media has its place in the lead generation process.
  • Owned media typically has greater ROI, but organizations will find the most success leveraging all three.

PS – I put together these 10 tips for optimizing your content marketing. Watch Now!

Next, we’ll look at each type of media.

What Is Paid Media?

Paid media consists of any type of advertising. It comes with a price tag, which varies depending on the channel. Unfortunately, this is what most people think marketing is all about.

The strategy behind paid ads is to drive users to your owned media. You can do this with:

  • Paid search on Google or other search engines
  • Social media ads
  • Sponsorships of events (live or virtual)
  • Partner emails
  • Influencer marketing
  • Digital display ads on third-party sites
  • Sponsored content on third-party platforms that are credible to your buyers
  • Retargeting

Benefits of Paid Media

  • Immediate results as soon as the ad begins
  • Fast lead generation and traffic to owned media
  • You set the strategy. Even though you don’t own the channel, you decide what the ad looks like, says, and whom it will target.

Paid Media Stats and ROI

So, does paid media work? It certainly can with the right strategy. It’s important to note though, that paid media can only deliver ROI when the ad is running. When it’s over, it’s over.

Most content marketers use paid channels. The CMI 11th Annual B2B Content Marketing Report found that 72 percent do so.

Image: CMI

What paid channels do they use? The leader was social media, followed by paid search. The top pick for paid social media was LinkedIn with Facebook and Twitter coming in second and third.

Paid media will provide your brand with exposure and help you reach audiences you couldn’t reach before. Ads do have some obstacles that impede ROI. Buyers are “ad blind” because of the constant inundation. Often, leads from paid channels aren’t quality leads; expect to get lots of spam, especially from paid search. Whether the lead is qualifiable or not, you’re still paying.

Paid media ROI is going to be different for any business. It depends on how competitive your industry is, as that will result in higher bids for keywords. Other factors include how compelling the ad is and how well you target. Targeting is available in multiple ways. For example, on LinkedIn and other social media sites, you can target by geography, industry, job title, or interests.

For display ads or sponsored content, you’ll get impressions and clicks. But those don’t really tell you ROI. You have to be able to attribute the event to an actual sale, which can be tricky.

PS – Check out our weekly blog content service to grow your website traffic and leads!

What Is Owned Media?

Owned media represents all content that you control. The biggest part of your owned media is your website. You have the power to design it as you want and publish content that’s uniquely your own.

However, just having a website or digital presence isn’t enough. Once people land on your website from either paid or earned sources, you want them to stay. That requires a dedication to an excellent user experience (UX) and content that resonates with your buyers.

Other owned media includes social media postings. You don’t own that channel, but you do control what you post and when. After that, the algorithms take over, but in its original form, it’s owned.

Email marketing is also owned media. Buyers give you permission to email them, and you dictate the messaging and offers. It’s a channel that you own for nurturing and fostering customer relationships.

Podcasts and virtual events are other owned media options. You design the content and experience. You don’t own distribution channels or platforms. Yet, it’s still branded content and has a much stronger impact than third-party events.

Owned Media Benefits

  • Total control of content and design
  • It’s always driving ROI as long as it’s live
  • Investment is for resources, not ad dollars
  • You’ll be able to build trust and relationships with audiences
  • The biggest contributor to organic search rankings, which is where most B2B buyers start their journey

Owned Media Stats and ROI

Owned media is the foundation of content marketing. It is your brand’s story told in many formats and channels, but you control the narrative. In most cases, content marketing beats advertising.

For every one dollar spent on email marketing and SEO, your ROI is $40 and $22.24, respectively. You’ll see below, these owned media outperform paid.

Image: Smart Insights

Owned media and content marketing also cost less than paid by around 62 percent. Companies that blog regularly gain 68 percent more leads than those that don’t.

The ROI is pretty clear for owned media, and B2B marketers will be investing in it the most in 2021, according to the CMI report.


Image: CMI

PS – Check out our latest case study that shows how we helped one company double their leads!

What Is Earned Media?

Earned media describes any type of exposure or visibility gained outside of paid channels. Earned media is many times the vehicle for reaching the destination of owned media. Earned media is the modern, digital form of word of mouth. It’s a way that others recommend or endorse your brand.

Earned media can be mentions, shares, reposts/retweets, reviews, recommendations, and profiles in third-party content.

To increase earned media, you’ll need a strong SEO strategy to improve organic search rankings. Brands “earn” these rankings by delivering high-quality content that’s optimized and has backlinks. Google acts as the “recommender,” showing your owned content in the searching rankings. It must work in hand with a content strategy that focuses on creating relevant, valuable content for your audience.

Benefits of Earned Media

  • Higher rankings on Google when you have optimized owned media
  • Audiences get “social proof” of the quality of your goods or services
  • Greater reach for your brand to attract new users
  • Mentions in publications can improve brand reputation and boost your thought leadership

Earned Media Stats and ROI

Earned media is measurable with social media metrics of engagement—mentions, reach, comments, and more. Going inside the analytics on this can help you calculate earn media metrics like:

  • Amplification rate: ratio of shares compared to total followers
  • Applause rate: ratio of likes compared to total followers
  • Share of voice: ratio of the number of mentions of your brand compared to the total number of mentions for your brand and competitors

These metrics will give you an idea of the importance of your brand in social conversations. Other ways to determine ROI of earned media are:

  • Do reviews and testimonials refer to conversion? Look at the page referral to conversions to determine if these pages support them.
  • Improved ranking on organic where Google is “recommending” your content.

Not All Earned Media Is Good

Something else to consider is that not all earned media is positive. Some mentions and comments will be negative. That just comes with the territory, so be prepared to respond to these.

Which Media Has the Best ROI?

It’s not necessarily an either-or here. All three types of media overlap and work together, so you need to have all three.

In terms of the most consistent ROI, owned media takes the top position, but it receives more traction through paid and earned media strategies.

Having a healthy mix and strategically integrating them is the best approach.

Leverage Paid, Owned, and Earned Media with Consistent Content Production

To leverage any type of media, you need content, which requires consistent publishing. Some organizations don’t have the resources to do this, and that’s where we can help.

If you are ready to get more traffic to your site with quality content published consistently, check out our Content Builder Service.

Set up a quick consultation, and I’ll send you a free PDF version of my books. Get started today and generate more traffic and leads for your business.

Get a Free Consultation
for Content Marketing

Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula", and Founder of Marketing Insider Group. Recognized as a Top Content Marketing expert and Digital Marketing Leader, Michael leverages his experience from roles in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as his leadership in leading teams and driving growth for thriving startups. Today, Michael delivers empowering keynotes on marketing and leadership, and facilitates actionable workshops on content marketing strategy. Connect with Michael today.

Related Posts

Content Marketing How Customer Loyalty Is Really Earned

How Customer Loyalty Is Really Earned

Sep 7, 2023
9 min read
Content MarketingWhich Content Formats Work for Your Audience?

Which Content Formats Work for Your Audience?

Jan 18, 2024
17 min read
Content Marketing Which Is the Best Blogging Platform for You?

Which Is the Best Blogging Platform for You?

Jun 27, 2023
4 min read