Paid, Earned, & Owned Media – Where Does Mobile Fit In?

6 minute read

Upland Admin
Michael Becker is managing partner at mCordis, a mobile marketing education and advisory services firm with offices in London and San Francisco.

Marketers use media channels to deliver their message and guide people along the customer journey. Media channels are the collection of various mediums, including print, out-of-home, retail, newspaper, radio, television, websites, email, text messaging, and apps, to name a few. These channels are used to reach and engage an intended audience with a brand’s message and content.

Marketing practices fall into one of three media channel categories; paid, owned, and earned media. Each form of media is useful at different stages of the customer journey. Figure 1 below illustrates how the different forms of media may impact the various stages of the customer journey.

Paid Media

Paid media, often referred to as advertising, is the practice of paying to place one’s marketing message or offer in another company’s owned media. Examples of paid media include the placement of physical advertisements and offers in print and out-of-home media, like magazines, billboards, and point-of-sale displays. Other examples include advertisements placed in digital media outlets such as search ads, banners in web portals like Google or Yahoo!, rich media ads in online news outlets like The Weather Channel or The Wall Street Journal, native ads in social media channels like Facebook and SnapChat, offers in shopping apps like iBotta or Overstock, and in specialized content in services like Yummly. Paid media works exceedingly well at stimulating awareness, interest, desire and action.

Owned Media

Owned media refers to media that is under the direct control of a marketer, such as a non-messaging based media, including website, physical retail store and point-of-sale display, mobile apps and messaging based media (e.g. email, text message, push or in-app notifications). Non-messaging related owned media is most effective for the early stages of the customer journey but has little effect on the later parts of the customer journey while messaging-based media is the one media channel that has an effect on every stage of the customer journey.

Earned Media

In addition to paid and owned media, there’s a third category of media that has come to the attention of marketers in recent years: earned media. Earned media, a byproduct of effective paid and owned media, refers to the free publicity and brand amplification a marketer recognizes from people sharing and commenting on the marketer’s owned and paid media efforts. Again, generating earned media is not in the marketers direct control. It is a byproduct of people positively responding to the marketer’s programs and content. For example, earned media is generated when someone likes, shares, links to, or recommends your paid or owned media, like a promotional video or new product release. Earned media wields a significant influence over upper and lower parts of the customer journey.

How Much Are Marketers Spending?

When employed properly, each of these media types can be used to effectively guide someone through the stages of the customer journey. Gartner estimates that firms are spending 11% of revenues on marketing overall. On the paid media front, McKinsey & Company estimates that marketers globally spent $1.6 trillion in 2015 and that this spending on media will grow at a compounded annual rate of 5.1% to $2.1 trillion by 2019. In the United States, eMarketer estimates the U.S. Marketers spent $189 billion on advertising in 2015 and they’ll spend nearly $195 billion in 2016. All three of these analysts agree that the general trend of this spending is flowing into digital media, especially paid media in mobile web and apps, as that is where most media is consumed.

Research shows that when marketers advertise properly, brand awareness, favorability, purchase intent and even actual sales may increase. All of the money spent in marketing does work and helps marketers achieve their objectives. However, no matter how effective paid media marketing is, marketers must see it for what it is.

Paid media is a great tool for generating awareness and engaging people, but it has little to no lasting value in isolation. In fact, a marketer that primarily relies on paid media may be considered a tenant farmer. Like a tenant farmer, as soon as the marketer stops paying for media, they are kicked off the land (e.g. their ads don’t show up anymore). This means they’re no longer able to engage their audience and they’re left with little or no lasting return.

Where Does Mobile Fit In?

To get the most out of their efforts, marketers should look to reduce their reliance on paid and non-messaging based owned media. To accomplish this, marketers should establish what we refer to as an Owned Media Causeway (OMC). With an OMC strategy, the goal is to use paid media, including social media, in order to drive individuals to the marketers owned media channels. This effort will enable marketers to establish a direct connection with individuals so that they may begin communicating with them.

Mobile is at the heart of an effective OMC strategy according to comScore, 65% of all media is consumed via the mobile phone.

To operationalize an OMC strategy, marketers must strategically leverage content and the placement of invitations in both paid and owned media in order engage the individual. Once the individual is interacting with the marketer’s owned media, the marketer can then time the placement of opt-in invitations to join the marketer’s owned communications database in order to receive future communications, VIP content and offers, from the marketer. It goes without saying, marketers’ media content must be mobile-optimized, as that is how it will most likely be viewed.

Establishing the owned media causeway and a direct connection with individuals is critical to the future success of marketing for every company. It amplifies the benefit from marketing expenditure on both owned and paid media, building an asset, a database, a foundation for a direct line of communication with individuals that have opened themselves up to hear from and to engage the marketer.

1Genovese, Y.; Sorofman, J.; Virzi A. (2015). CMO Spend Survey 2015-2016: Digital Marketing Comes of Age. Gartner. Retrieved from::–digital
2Batch, M.; Murdock, S.; Scanlan, J (2015). The state of global media spending. McKinsey & Company. Retrieved from:

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