In this article, Glenn May-Anderson of Lumaro Group provides an overview of the three key types of media you need to know about:  Paid, Earned, and Owned Media.

One of the subjects I cover often with clients is the different types of digital and traditional media, and how they can be used to positively (or – eek – negatively) impact their business or organization.  Instead of being categorized based on technology or company, POE is an acronym used for the commonly-held categories of Paid, Earned, and Owned media.  So, what are they, and what do they mean – or should they mean – to you?  We’re here to help you understand, so we’ve created this four-part series to give you the goods in detail.  By the time we’re through, you should be able to tell your Amontillado from your Sherry.  Let’s go!

Paid Media

This is basically any form of marketing, promotion, PR – whatever – that you actually pay for.  This can range from Google AdWords to Facebook advertising and post-boosting, to commercials you run on YouTube, to radio, newsprint, site ads – again, if you spend money to get eyeballs to see it, it’s Paid media.  Typically, it’s the “easiest” form of media to use, because all you are doing is buying your exposure; its effectiveness can range from complete dud to overwhelmingly successful, depending on whether or not you have a clear message, value proposition, and call-to-action that motivates people to engage with you.

Owned Media

This is what you actually own (or should own), from your website, to social media channels (which you don’t really own), blog sites, or any place you have direct and permanent presence that you directly control for your brand, cause, business, or organization.  (If I seem fixated on the term “owned,” there’s a reason – I get into it in more detail below).  Basically, the locations where you can display and share content that you create yourself (blog posts articles, podcasts, etc.).  In the real world, it extends to things like the sign at the front of your store or building, or vehicle wraps, or any marketing you do inside your location.  While you still pay for it, there is a level of permanence to this type of media, as opposed to the (typically) temporary nature of Paid media.

Earned Media

This is the toughest of the three media categories to acquire.  It’s also the best, most effective, and most-sought-after.  Earned media is anything posted or shared by someone else in the digital world, from social media, to other websites, to newspaper articles, radio or television interviews – anything that leverages your brand and your content, attributed to you, and which you don’t pay for.  It’s the “word-of-mouth” of the media and digital worlds.

There are a couple of other things you should understand when it comes to POE as well.


We can never stress this enough.  Content is king.  Anything that you write, draw, create, share, post, record – it’s all content, in one form or another.  Good content, delivered over time, establishes you as a subject matter expert, and as supremely knowledgeable about a topic, whether it’s your product, service, cause, or organization.

How important is good content to your overall digital presence strategy?  Let me put it this way:  It’s not really a secret that Google, Bing, and any other search engines out there are constantly changing their rules and algorithms and techniques for how they rate the search results they provide based on the words being searched.  There’s one exception:  Quality content will always increase your “authority” on these sites when it comes to the subject matter you are creating (and posting) content on.  Increasing your “authority” increases your ranking.  And that, ultimately, is what you want – to stand out among the crowd, to be easy to find, in order to attract new people to you.

Some of the people who try to sell you Search Engine Optimization (SEO) services for your website may disagree, and may hate me for saying this, but better content, and consistently sharing new content, will do at least as much (if not more) to boost your ranking than SEO will.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t investigate or use SEO, I’m only saying it’s not necessarily the first thing you want to worry about when formulating your digital strategy.

A Word on Ownership (well, maybe a few words…)

Since I’m not making any friends in the SEO world today, I might as well go all-in.  If you’re using an online website building service, you don’t really own your websiteDon’t believe me?  Just try to download a copy of your website that you could take with you to another hosting company, another internet services provider, or another agency.  You’re paying for something called Software as a Service (SaaS), and it pretty much ties you to that service provider, or technology, or hosting company, for the rest of your life.  (If you have a WordPress site and a WordPress hosting plan, that’s different – I’ll cover that in another article later in this series).

If your website consists of nothing but a Facebook page, you’re also not in an ownership position.  They can change the rules on you anytime, change what services they offer, and you certainly don’t have creative control over the appearance of your page above and beyond the words you enter or the photos you upload and use.

Finally, if your website was built by someone else, and you don’t know where it is, or how to update it, or if you can’t find the person who built it or you just don’t know enough about your website in the first place, do you really “own” it?  I was speaking with a friend yesterday who knows they have to update their website (they haven’t done anything to it since 2013), and the person who built the site is no longer “doing” websites, and doesn’t even know how to access the site’s back-end anymore.  Which means any money my friend spent six years ago to build that site is (most likely) flushed down the toilet, because I doubt the site can be salvaged for anything except some content at this point.  And that’s if they can figure out how to access it.

Again, I’ll cover Owned media in greater detail a couple of articles from now, but I want to leave you with this as my final thought:

First impressions are so incredibly important.  That’s why your office, or shop, or storefront looks as good as it does (within the context of whatever it is you do).  You want to appear professional.  You don’t want people to make the wrong assumption based on the physical state of your location.  It’s why you spend a significant amount every month on a rental or mortgage payment, on maintenance, on repairs, on signage, on furniture, on keeping the place fresh and clean and welcoming.

So, given that over half the people today search you out online before ever calling or visiting you, why would you not put the same amount of care or concern into your digital presence?  From a cost basis, the two don’t even compare – having a good, simple digital presence that you own and control should cost the majority of small-to-medium-sized businesses no more than a month’s worth of your physical location expenses.

If you’re serious about your business, organization, or cause, you need to get serious about your digital presence.

We’ll get in-depth into Paid media in our next article.

– Glenn May-Anderson is a Managing Director of Lumaro Group

If you have questions or concerns about what you’re doing with your paid, owned, or earned media – Lumaro can help.  We’ll come see you and do a one-hour consultation session with you, free of charge.  Contact us today to learn more.