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How paid, owned, and earned are becoming one

How paid, owned, and earned are becoming one Rebecca Lieb

Advertising and media are experiencing a moment of convergence. The lines are blurring between paid, earned, and owned media. Each is bleeding into the other, blurring the lines between where advertising, marketing, and user-generated media begin...and end.

Examples of earned and owned media that morph into paid:


Among Facebook's new ad units are pieces of content (owned media) from brand pages that can be converted into ad units. "Anything you can do on your page," Facebook promises brand advertisers, "you can do in an ad." Earned gets rolled into the equation as these ads are displayed to friends-of-fans, along with "likes," and other forms of CGM.


The company that built its reputation on powering ratings and reviews has moved these forms of owned media into both paid and owned media. Take its new ad units that display user review in standard display formats -- reviews can be targeted on a number of demographic and behavioral factors (e.g., gender, geo-location, or products viewed).


dotJWT created a campaign aimed at the IT community by monitoring conversations in an online discussion network. Comments that were particularly favorable or trenchant were pulled from the private community and plunked into display units. "Geeks don't respond to advertising, they respond to other geeks," dotJWT head Jon Baker told me.

These examples are just the tip of a very large iceberg. Paid can take a reverse course and morph into owned. Or earned. Or both. Consider the long lives of advertising spokes-characters on the web: "The Old Spice Guy." "The Most Interesting Man in the World." "Seinfeld & Superman." The list seems endless.

So, with the publication of a research report on content marketing completed, it's time to take notes, amass material, and look into another area of digital disruption: the convergence and confluence of paid, earned, and owned. I'm embarking on this project with my colleague, Jeremiah Owyang, who has identified five reasons for our research:

  • Earned (social) content has become mainstream. We're past the point of experimentation. Nearly every industry requires mass deployment.

  • Facebook's recent announcements clearly indicate earned content is now becoming paid, and owned content needs to be paid to achieve mass appeal within a Facebook page.

  • We're starting to see the corporate social strategist cross the aisle to work with direct marketers. Advertising agencies are extending their budgets into the social world. Political and coordination issues will emerge as these once separate groups come together.

  • Brands that integrate paid, owned, and earned media will benefit because they will reach customers in the most effective manner.

  • Consumers don't consciously differentiate between ads, corporate content, and what their friends say, but instead indiscriminately use a variety of content sources.

As our research theme takes shape and the process begins, we're looking for case studies on the confluence of paid, earned, and owned media. We're also hosting TweetUps in April in both San Francisco and New York to discuss the topic (free to all comers -- just register, please).

Rebecca Lieb is an analyst, digital advertising/media, for Altimeter Group.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"Teamwork and partnerships connecting on the same path" image via Shutterstock.

Rebecca Lieb has published more research on content marketing than anyone else in the field.  As a strategic adviser, her clients range from start-up to non-profits to Fortune 100 brands and regulated industries. She's worked with brands...

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