Gini Dietrich

The Four Different Types of Media

By: Gini Dietrich | June 24, 2013 | 

PESO Model

A few weeks ago, Paula Kiger asked me if I would write a blog post about the different types of media.

Paula, here you go!

In the marketing world, we have what we refer to as four forms of media: Paid, earned, owned, and shared.

If you’re in business – and have been for more than 10 years – it’s pretty certain you only ever had to worry about paid and earned media.

And then social media came along and created the opportunity for owned and shared, which business leaders and communicators, alike, have scrambled to learn, understand, and incorporate.

But let’s take a step back and look at what the four mean.

Paid Media

Paid media is what you know of as advertising. You pay for space in a newspaper or magazine, on a radio or television program, on billboards, on websites, in Google, and even in subway stations.

If you’re paying to put your message somewhere, it falls in this category.

Typically you hire (or have internally) a creative agency that develops the advertising campaign, creates a witty slogan or jingle, and helps you place it in the right places.

It’s expensive, it’s hard to measure, and it’s one of the few ways to get your message out to the masses in a very fast and effective way.

If your industry is highly competitive, paid media is one of the best ways to communicate.

Earned Media

Earned media is what you know of as public relations…or as we prefer to call in the business: Media relations or publicity.

It used to be you’d hire a PR firm because of their deep relationships with journalists in your industry or nationally. Those relationships would help  you tell your story so it would appear in your top trade publications, in the Wall Street Journal, or on The Today Show.

Being from Chicago, people always wanted to hire us to get them on Oprah. It was almost a blessing to the PR industry here when her show went off the air.

Stories told from a third-party perspective are always looked at as credible and trust-worthy.

But media relations is expensive, time intense, and there are no guarantees.

Because of that, we often hear from business owners, “We tried a PR firm, but it didn’t work.”

If all they do is media relations, you’ll typically end up sorely disappointed.

Owned Media

But that leads us to owned media. With the advent of changes at Google, your website now has to be a living, breathing document. Gone are the days of publishing your site and not updating it again until years later.

The content you create is becoming even more important than the two forms of media listed above.

We’re not talking about content on your website that talks about how great you are. We’re talking about content that is valuable, interesting, and informational for your audiences.

Things such as how-to webinars, tips and tools podcasts, informational white papers, or blogs that create value by giving away your best ideas.

Spin Sucks has the vision of changing the perception of the PR industry (we’re not all spin doctors) and provides business owners and the industry, alike, the tools they need to do their own marketing and communications.

But a funny thing happened along the way. Most people won’t do it themselves and, because we give away the best, we’re perceived as the industry leader. This darn blog drives 40 percent of our new revenue every year.

All because the owned media we create is valuable to our audiences.

Shared Media

Unfortunately, though, you can’t just create the content and hope people will stop by. This is not the Field of Dreams: If you build it, they most likely will not come.

With the Google Panda update, you are now ranked on whether or not people share your content on the social networks.

The search engine wants to see you consistently create new content and that people want to share it with their networks. Double gold stars if they share it on Google+ and if you use video and house it on YouTube.

The first step is to make sure the social media share buttons are on your site so it’s easy for visitors to share your owned media, but you also have to spend some time building networks of your own.

Don’t go out and try to do that on all of the social networks. Studies have shown Facebook is the most effective for consumer-facing businesses and LinkedIn is for those working business-to-business.

Choose the one (or two) networks that best fits your audience (hang out on the web where they already participate) and start there.

An Industry Shift

If you’re in the market for external marketing and communications expertise, look for agencies that combine the four media.

For instance, FleishmanHillard recently announced they’re pulling in all four types of media under one roof. A boutique marketing communications firm in Chicago named Arment Dietrich (cough, cough) did this in 2010.

The point is, there are some firms that are still stuck in 2005, offering only media relations and maybe one or two other tactics, such as events or they dabble in social media. And then there are others that see the future, grasp a hold of it, and are there for their clients as technology changes the way we all do our jobs every day.

Find a firm that will help you move into the future today…not five years from now.

A version of this first appeared in my weekly AllBusiness column

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • This is a fantastic list/explainer. 🙂

  • ElissaFreeman

    Great list- you’d be surprised how many people DON’T know the difference bw paid and earned media!

    • ElissaFreeman Oh I know! Like when people ask you what you think of the Super Bowl ads because you say you’re in PR.

      • ginidietrich ElissaFreeman why would anyone ask about superbowl spots when they find out you are in PR. Advertising I understand. 
        Oh wait PR is needed when the Go Daddy ad offends women in 27 countries.

        • Howie Goldfarb Or when the GoDaddy CEO shoots elephants.

    • ElissaFreeman I was definitely one of those people and am very grateful for this explanation!

  • Which one works best where you can just ‘show up?’
    I would think it would almost be a given these days that you would have to bring all 4 under one roof. How would you ‘price’ that model though? Of course, if you are getting paid on ‘results’ it would be easy, but going in since you are bringing 4 disciplines to the table, does that increase the billings? 
    I would pay a dollar three eighty seven for it….

  • Nicely done. I always think these key definitions would make nice posters or PDF’s to educate clients. The Arment Dietrich Retail store dba Jack Bauer Bonus Bones 😉

    • annelizhannan Methinks you’re on to something!

  • John_Trader1

    Appreciate your deft summary GD, and I was a bit shocked that some firms still haven’t evolved into serving all four needs. Who is running these places? Is there really that much shortsightedness?

    • John_Trader1 I think you would be hard pressed to find 10 agencies that do all four if you did a global search.

      • John_Trader1

        ginidietrich John_Trader1 That’s hard to believe. You’d figure that most of the major players would have figured this out by now.

        • John_Trader1 They’re too big and it’s too hard to change. It’s a BIG change.

  • Gini, don’t forget sales support sharing.  One of the most underused distribution pathways is using all this hard-won content to influence prospects  I recently ask a client if they’re using the blog posts I wrote in follow-up communication to sales targets, and said he never would have thought to use them that way.

    • BobReed Isn’t it funny how sometimes the most obvious things are the ones that are missed?

      • ginidietrich BobReed Amazing, isn’t it?

  • Dick Carlson

    I only advertise my business on the back of women’s sweat pants. It’s called “PINK”.

  • Thank you, Gini! I appreciate this explanation. More importantly, I appreciate as a relative industry outsider the respect that I was paid for asking what to many on here was undoubtedly a “101” question. Thanks again!!!

    • biggreenpen Not 101 at all – there are SO MANY people shifting into this industry from diverse backgrounds (myself, for example) – I think it’s a valuable question and the answer is an awesome resource!

      • belllindsay biggreenpen Agreed LB.

      • belllindsay biggreenpen it isn’t 101 and it is very confusing. Most businesses don’t understand the value of the 4 types and how to use them to amplify sales results.
        You can easily spend a lot of money and effort on paid local media and have less impact than the media coverage you didn’t do anything to garner. I have a client that is ‘pursued’ for media coverage without any work on our part.

    • biggreenpen I’m with everyone down below. It’s not 101. In fact, I wrote it as my PR business column for AllBusiness first because most business leaders don’t understand it. And…I’m super happy to answer questions like this, so any time!

      • ginidietrich biggreenpen You did a great job of explaining this is easy-to-understand terms with concrete examples, Gini!. It’s pretty much the definitive breakdown of paid, earned, owned and shared now. Anything else out there, pales in comparison.

  • littlegiantprod

    Thanks so much for brining this up.  It’s great reminder to know the difference.  Just placed it on my computer stickie!

    • littlegiantprod Ohhhh! We made the computer stickie!

  • Love this breakdown! Do you consider a blog post about your company or product (on someone else’s blog) as earned media? And if that gets shares it could be shared-earned media, which I think goes right to your point about combining your marketing efforts.

    • MikeHale Yes…that’s exactly right. A guest post would be consider earned and it being promoted through the social networks would be shared.
      How was your trip??

      • ginidietrich Very busy! 3 full days at Universal & SeaWorld, swamp boat tour and mini-family reunion. Back to work now. At least I got a few blog post ideas out of it too 😀

        • MikeHale That’s the best vacation!

        • MikeHale vacation: ultimate generator of blog post ideas.

  • I was shopping in the Arment-Dietrich Boutique. Wasn’t too keen on a short shorts and the accessories selection. But I did think your selection of new and used jeans was great as was your amazing selection of men’s vintage speedos. How often do you get new inventory?

    • Howie Goldfarb We get new inventory once a week. This week we’re getting frisbees with the Spin Sucks logo on them.

      • ginidietrich Howie Goldfarb yvettepistorio annelizhannan Maybe I shouldn’t retire Bargainista (shopping/customer service blog) after all. 😉

        • EdenSpodek LOL!! Howie Goldfarb yvettepistorio annelizhannan

  • Great, great list and breakdown. I agree with annelizhannan that these should be made into posters and sold at the Arment Dietrich retail store.

    • yvettepistorio annelizhannan Add to the to-do list: Open an Arment Dietrich retail store.

    • susancellura

      yvettepistorio annelizhannan I’d buy several posters and hang them around the office.

      • susancellura yvettepistorio annelizhannan So now we’re having a conference AND selling t-shirts and posters.

        • ginidietrich Well at least I expect be given a T-shirt as the new manager of the retail store on Michigan avenue, a logo polo shirt for  standing at the conference tables and a tube top for the trade shows. Let @Howie Goldfarb have the thongs 😉

        • annelizhannan You get one for coming up with the idea!

  • susancellura

    We are having an offsite on Friday – it’s to throw on casual clothes and brainstorm around initiatives currently in place that could be dynamically upgraded. This will be an opportunity to throw in some education as well! Thanks for this, ginidietrich!

    • susancellura You are very welcome! Too bad we don’t have the posters. You could hang them up.

      • susancellura

        ginidietrich Now you’re really thinking about the retail store, eh?  LOL!

        • susancellura LOL!! It would be fun to have that kind of stuff at the conference you guys are talking me into having.

        • susancellura

          ginidietrich How about a Gini Dietrich impersonator contest? Or, a hand fan with your face on it that we hold up like masks? Am I getting too scary now?  🙂

        • susancellura Maybe Emily Deschanel can show up and pretend she’s me.

  • Media relations (aka getting ink) in the pre-social era was the focus of the PR biz, and company executives expected good coverage, and lots of it.  PR was, unfortunately, narrowbanded into what editors do you know and how soon can you get a story in <insert big name publication here>. Yes, PR could do many other things (messaging development, reputation enhancement, news promotion via releases, events, trade shows, etc.). But at the end of the day you knew the Powers That Be measured your value in column inches. Best thing that ever happened to the PR profession was the disintermediation of traditional news media gatekeepers, and the broadening of PR beyond its perception as a One Trick Pony.  PR as a “communications” function has been enriched by the more robust domains of earned, owned, shared and (previously outside of our purview because we weren’t supposed to touch dollars) paid media.

  • So yeah… I’m getting pretty smooth at creating content. Now to find a way to get people to use it!! Although you did crush my dreams, I thought if they built it they WOULD come *sigh*

    • TonyBennett Apparently that works for you on Instagram, though!

  • “Unfortunately, though, you can’t just create the content and hope people will stop by. This is not the Field of Dreams: If you build it, they most likely will not come.”  Preach it, ginidietrich!

    • Katie Gutwein I attended a content marketing session a few weeks ago and the guy started out by saying if you build it, they will come. I left shortly after that because I disagree so vehemently.

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  • tamara13

    Thank you for such an informative post!  As a PR student approaching graduation (and hopefully, employment!), it was refreshing to read concise, easily understood definitions of the various forms of media.  It also confirmed my understanding of PR being of a much wider scope than the traditional shared/earned media approach.  Based on the majority of education I have received thus far, I don’t find it difficult to believe that so many companies have not embraced the importance of all four types.  In many introductory classes, we only discussed shared and earned media.  It was only very recently that we delved deeper into owned and shared media, and even then, they are not given those titles (making them somewhat vague and indefinable).  I find it very helpful to have these labels attached and will be sure to take this knowledge with me as I embark on my career.  Thanks again!

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