What is the Difference Between Paid and Earned Media?

Written by Nick Stamoulis

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When it comes to digital marketing, there are several different types of media that you should target. Paid and earned media are two of these types. A good strategy incorporates all the different types, it’s just that the proportions will change depending on your business. Some businesses favor one type over the other, and that is generally okay. However, sometimes businesses will focus exclusively on one and then ignore the rest.

So, what is the difference between paid and earned media, and how do you know when you should use them? Learn all about the difference and when you should use them.

What is Paid Media?

Paid media is marketing where the brand pays the media to publish its content. This is done in exchange for brand exposure through advertisements, sponsorships, and branded content. Paid media is an excellent option for brands with a large marketing budget and looking to reach a specific audience.

Paid media is an excellent option for brands with a large marketing budget, a specific audience they want to reach, and a general idea of which channels they want to use. Here are some reasons brands choose to invest in paid media:

  • Reach a specific audience. Paid media gives you control over who sees your ads and who you target.
  • Drive sales. Paid media can help drive sales by increasing your brand’s visibility.
  • Build brand awareness. Paid media is one way to build your brand’s awareness. The goal is for people to see your ads and remember your brand.
  • Build relationships. You can build relationships with potential customers through paid media by getting them to notice your business through your ads.

What is Earned Media?

Earned media is when you receive free publicity or coverage from a third party without paying for it. However, you need to put forth a lot of up-front work in order to attract this kind of coverage, and that usually takes time. For example, you need to create content and post to social media regularly to gain momentum. Here’s a look at the value of earned media and why it can be a good thing:

  • It’s free to use. There’s no cost associated with earned media. You’re using your existing relationships to amplify your marketing efforts. However, it does take time to build it up.
  • You can’t control results. With earned media, you don’t have any control over who talks about your company or shares your content.
  • Useful over the long term. It takes a while for earned media to start working, and you have to be willing to wait for the results to happen. It takes consistent and patient effort to get to this point.

When you invest in paid media, you pay an outside party, such as a social media network, to run your ad. Basically, you need to pay to get traffic.  With earned media, you don’t have any control over who talks about your brand or shares your content. Most companies need a combination of both.


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