three options owned paid earned

If you’re just beginning to work on putting together a content marketing strategy, first of all, I’d like to apologize on behalf of the buzzword-addicted portion of the content community. In a relatively young and expanding industry, there are so many concepts and tactics that pop up and need to be named and defined, it can sometimes seem as if there’s an entire language to learn. It’s understandable, and we’re really probably all to blame, but it doesn’t make it especially easy sometimes for people from other specializations to get involved in our efforts and to work with us. More importantly, I’m offering you a quick, easy to understand introduction to the three-legged stool/three-pronged content marketing strategy of “owned, paid, and earned” that you’ve probably already seen mentioned. It’ll serve you well, and will hopefully make communicating across specializations a bit easier.

This “owned, paid, and earned” approach is really just a way of thinking about spreading out your available content marketing resources through different channels of distribution and access for optimal coverage and impact. Each of those three types of content marketing is going to use different materials and access different audiences, so by using all three, you give yourself the best shot at reaching the audience you want to reach at all stages of the customer journey.


Owned content is anything directly controlled by a business, like a website. To some extent, owned content is going to reach people who are existing customers or are at least familiar with your brand, and as such were inclined to seek out specific information about you. This is valuable, and in part it’s going to point you towards a different type of content than with an audience that is primarily unfamiliar with your brand or your products and services. It’s a smart move to include a focus with owned content on things like FAQs for customers and information people would want if they’re considering making a purchase after already being familiar with your brand and what you offer. Think about what someone might want to find if they went looking specifically for your brand or at least specifically for the product or service you specialize in.

When it comes to sales and marketing, you would be wise to put a strong focus on owned. With Facebook and other channels continuingly changing how much of your content they’ll show to people who have already liked or followe you, social channels are less reliable than they once were. An owned blog channel is your best bet to ensure regular interaction with both existing and potential customers.

Sponsored tweets, pay per click (PPC) ads, and other forms of native advertising make up the paid portion of your content marketing efforts. These are a good way to reach customers who may not be familiar with your brand or who may not be actively searching for something specific enough to you to come up in results, but who may be interested based on demographic or other data that whoever you are purchasing through has access to. These short sponsored messages can often link to your owned content, but avoid the temptation to simply dump someone onto the front page of your website. A specialized landing page that is specifically relevant to what someone clicked on to get there and what the message they saw promised will yield better results.


Earned content is made up of shares and retweets or reposts or likes that you’ve earned because people genuinely like your content. It’s digital word of mouth advertising and as such is extremely valuable. Earned is harder to get, because you really do have to earn it with interesting, engaging, well-made content, but it’s also far more valuable than paid and can, theoretically, reach an unlimited number of people if, for instance, a piece of content you created gets picked up and shared by someone with an extremely large social media following. You can’t count on any content “going viral”, but focusing on what kind of content would really encourage people to share it, genuinely and from a place of sincere interest, will lead you down the right path.

Obviously none of these three operate independently, which is why they’re a part of an overall strategy. Remembering that they’re interconnected and that each should be strong and healthy to support the other will go a long way towards your content marketing efforts succeeding, and hopefully give you fewer headaches along the way! Is there some content or digital buzzword you’ve been wanting an easy to understand explanation for? Let us know in the comments and we’ll see what we can do.