Earned Media

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Earned media refers to publicity gained through promotional efforts other than advertising, as opposed to ‘paid media,’ which refers to publicity gained through advertising. There are many types of media available to online marketers and fit into the broad categories. Owned media is defined as communication channels that are within one’s control, such as websites, blogs, or email.  Paid media refers mostly to traditional advertising. Earned media, on the other hand, is generated when content receives recognition and a following outside of traditional paid advertising, through communication channels such as social media and word of mouth.

A Nielsen study in 2013 found that earned media (also described in the report as ‘word-of-mouth’) is the most trusted source of information in all countries it surveyed worldwide. It also found that earned media is the channel most likely to stimulate the consumer to action. Other authorities make the distinction between online and offline earned media / word-of-mouth, and have shown that offline word-of-mouth has been found to be more effective than online word-of-mouth.

Earned media often refers specifically to publicity gained through editorial influence, whereas ‘social media’ refers to publicity gained through grassroots action, particularly on the Internet. The media may include any mass media outlets, such as newspaper, television, radio, and the Internet, and a variety of formats, such as news articles or shows, letters to the editor, editorials, and polls on television and the Internet. Critically, earned media cannot be bought or owned, it can only be gained organically, hence the term ‘earned.’

Many consider earned media to be the most cost effective method of marketing. As a result, many companies are investing in social media and other areas that can stimulate word-of-mouth publicity. The increased use of earned media is converging traditional owned and paid methods of marketing. The increasing use of earned media has provided marketers with new ways in which to interact and engage their customers. These innovative approaches are replacing traditional marketing methods such as email and banner ads, and provide innovative methods to find, optimize, and measure return on earned media investments.

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