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Owned, earned and paid media — the pros and cons

07 April, 2021

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With so many diverse PR strategies being used today, it can be hard to know what will deliver the greatest results for your brand. 

Here’s a short breakdown of each media type, and the pros and cons of each.


This is when you use your own platform to publish your content, for example, a Facebook page or website.

  • Benefits: One of the biggest benefits of owned media is that you have a lot of control over your image and the content you publish on these platforms. Owned media is also often fairly cheap or even free to operate, and can be a good way to strengthen relationships with existing customers.

  • Weaknesses: Building up a following or reputation on owned media can be time-consuming, and often there is not a lot of trust for company communication. 


Earned media refers to coverage generated when the public, the media/journalists, and customers mention your brand voluntarily. It is essentially word-of-mouth publicity. 

  • Benefits: Because of its transparency, earned media is considered the most credible form of media to the public, so when this coverage is positive it can be incredibly valuable to a brand.

  • Weaknesses: The downside to this is that earned media can sometimes be negative, as the brand has little control over the content. It can also be hard to measure or quantify. 


This one is fairly self-explanatory and involves paying to use a third-party channel, such as sponsorships and advertising. 

  • Benefits: There is generally even more control over the content on paid media than owned media. It can also be generated very quickly, and have a scale and reach that may be more difficult for earned media to achieve. 

  • Weaknesses: The cost is clearly a downside (although paid media can also often be cheaper than earned or owned media, especially when time and effort is factored into the cost) and it is also considered far less credible than earned media. 

So what’s the best strategy?

In most cases, the answer is all three! Using just one form of media is generally not enough to generate effective coverage. Nowadays, they are often combined — this is called native advertising. 

Native advertising is content that is paid for but created to look similar to earned media. An example of this is ‘advertorials’, which are paid media created to emulate the style of editorial content. 

Under the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) code of ethics, media publishers still must be careful to ensure any paid content is clearly distinguishable as ads. Internationally, several media organisations have been reprimanded in the past for failing to adequately identify content as paid advertising, such as this classic BuzzFeed style ‘listicle’ published in 2016.

BuzzFeed’s sponsored advertorial landed them in trouble under UK advertising rules.

These standards are also applicable to paid content published by influencers on social media. Although it’s not a requirement that influencers explicitly identify their content as ads, it is important that it can be reasonably interpreted as such by the influencers’ audience — their followers. 

Advertorials are just one example of earned, owned and paid media being combined to create an effective PR and marketing strategy. Another example is Jump for the Planet’s campaign launch, which used the broadcasting of a 5 minute video in Times Square as well as a Multimedia News Release (MNR) to reach an audience of 134 million (from 234 media articles/content) within 48 hours. 

If you need assistance with your PR strategy, contact us to discuss the best options for your brand. 

Medianet is the ultimate PR platform connecting you with media contacts and outlets to get your story told.

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