Over the past half a dozen years or so, all I’ve heard about in my circles is “owned, earned, and paid” media types. Marketing professionals love … and I mean LOVE … terms they can drop with clients as a way to sound smart. And although I’m a little weary of the ubiquity of these terms, it’s true that media types are an important part of any integrated campaign conversation. However, it can be an amazingly cost-effective or expensive conversation, depending on the types of media you choose or create. Let’s define this marketing vernacular:

Owned Media: 

Owned media is content and online properties that you have either created or paid to have created. You own them as a digital asset or intellectual property. All of these buckets are very large and can contain limitless amounts of different digital minutia. Owned media includes written content, photos, videos, apps, custom code, white papers, and of course, trademarked, patented and copyrighted materials/ideas.

Earned Media:

This once relatively narrow corridor was owned almost exclusively by public relations. The idea is that you can bait news publishers to spread your message. Historically, the seed of earned media is some sort of paid inclusion. That can range from a press release to a live event. The byproduct, however, is that other news outlets might extend your messaging within their own circles, networks and subsequent channels.

Paid Media:

Paid media channels can be any type of digital, online, outdoor,  broadcast or print advertising. The list goes on and on basically to include anything that has come out of your client’s budget in an effort to effectively move the needle. Traditionally, a paid media buy was time-slot oriented system of advertising placements that usually fell within a blend of print and television.

Of course all of these have changed now with inbound marketing,  innovative content directives and social media channels. And last, but not least, the ability to monitor and report against all media types.

I used to do a lot of nifty Venn diagrams in order to convey these three quadrants from which most new media campaigns are constructed.  Since that time, and countless presentations later, it has evolved into what I affectionately refer to as “Darwin’s Inbound Marketing Clover.” Do I have hard drives full of scientific research to back my findings? No. But what I do have is years of experience in all these media types. And now it is rendered here in this model.

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Darwin — mainly because I keep evolving this particular diagram every six months (in some cases quarterly). Inbound —  while I touch on traditional marketing efforts, the vast majority of the tactics are inbound marketing techniques. Clover —  mainly because it ended up looking like one.

So why is Darwin’s Inbound Clover different from the old owned earned and paid model? Let’s take a look:

Owned/Earned/Paid Media:  These foundational verticals remain the same,  perhaps with the inclusion of more channel types per category.

Social Media:

Social media is listed as a unique breakout within this diagram for one specific reason – “engagement.”  Yes, many “gurus” will debate that social media is a combination of owned earned and paid, I think it is important to understand that while that is true, the fact that  you can conversationally engage in these environments makes it a game-changing category. Additionally, this particular category is as as quick to change as any.


The ever-growing epicenter of all of this chaos is content. Regardless of whatever category you outline, you are more than likely going to have to design, schedule and deploy some tangible element. Therefore, for me it was a no-brainer because after you’ve structurally planned your campaign around these media types, it’s time to fill the buckets.


The primary element in this equation is the all encompassing data that comes from marketing in a digital environment. Even our best laid plans from a marketing perspective have countless analytical variables that can be tested and optimized. Interestingly enough I believe this all-encompassing halo to be in its infancy compared to all of the other diagrams.  and while we make advances in understanding what that intelligence means as it relates to our audience, the evolution of how we treat this data may be the fastest-growing component outlined in this graphic.

I would also like to get your feedback. This graphic might be outdated and irrelevant in two weeks. But that being said, I would love to hear if you would make additions or subtractions to this layout.  What about this model works or does not work for you? As we all know, it’s only a matter of time till everything changes.