What Is Digital Media?

What Is Digital Media?

What is digital media? What are owned, earned and paid media and where do they fit into the mix?

If you’ve asked yourself these questions, this article is for you. Maybe you’re new to the world of digital marketing or wondering how pre-computer marketing communications translates into digital.

This article breaks down digital media into its three types: owned, earned and paid digital media, with examples and tips on how to maximise each.


Digital Media Explained

Digital media refers to all marketing communication that is distributed electronically and consumed via a screen.

Whether you’re on a website, LinkedIn, Facebook, or the e-edition of your favourite newspaper—if you’re reading marketing messages on a screen, you’re consuming digital media.

As IGI-Global correctly states, digital media is “A term given to the tools for communicating that involve conversion into machine-readable formats within human networks,” and is made up of “various platforms where humans communicate electronically.”


What Are The 3 Types of Digital Media?

Media falls under the banner of the marketing communication mix, mainly advertising and PR. It has always been categorised into owned, earned and paid media.

Off- and online, the principles of these types of media (owned, earned, paid) remain the same. The goals are to generate awareness and engagement.

The distinction with digital media is that new platforms like social media create different dynamics that marketers did not have to deal with BC (before computers).

Live chat, direct messages, and public comments open a world of instant, two-way communication. It allows unprecedented exposure and interaction. Brands can now form stronger relationships than ever before and require formidable PR skills.

Here is a closer look at the three types of digital media.


1. Owned Media

Let’s start closest to home. As the name implies, owned media is media that your company brand owns, meaning that you have complete control over it.

You can decide what is published on this platform, when, and there is no threat of another party restricting it or taking it down. There are no distractions from competitors, and you can build a real community.

Sometimes, you might see owned media described as free media, but that is misleading. There is still a cost for creating content and maintaining the platform.


Examples of Owned Media

A prominent example of owned media is your website–this is also your most significant digital media asset!

Ideally, you want to use earned and paid media to grab attention and direct them to your owned media—your website—where you have control over their brand exposure and user experience.

Owned media includes:

  • A mobile app (built yourself)
  • Emails
  • eBooks
  • Whitepapers
  • Podcasts
  • Webinars


How to Maximise Owned Media

☆ Start here
☆ Spare no expense at creating value-giving, quality content.

We mean it!

Good quality owned media leads to better earned media. The dream is to have your audience disseminate your content.
Content can be appropriated and repurposed on other media channels, killing two birds with one stone.


2. Earned Media

This is where PR comes to the fore. Earned media refers to publicity (exposure) on mediums (or platforms) that you do not own and thus don’t completely control.

It is typically generated by someone else, like a journalist, and that’s why it’s called earned media. Publicists (and marketers) work hard to earn a mention in a magazine, TV or newspaper feature.

The digital age has expanded the scope of earned media to include platforms that we don’t own—like social media.

There is an awful amount of misguided information about social media marketing (SMM). It is not owned media. Even though you publish content that you generated (or own) on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn—you don’t own or control the medium.

Facebook can close down tomorrow, and all your media disappears instantly. Twitter or Instagram can change their publishing rules at any time, and they can also choose to take down your content if it does not comply.

Organic, authentic brand mentions by other (credible) sources are the goal of earned media.

Earned media should raise credibility. The first prize is to get other people talking about your brand. Think social media post shares, published press releases, un-sponsored influencer mentions.


Examples of Earned Media

  • Media relations
  • Social media posts
  • Influencer relations
  • Online reviews and ratings (word of mouth)
  • Link building
  • Blog relations
  • Guest appearances (panellist, columnist, podcast, YouTube show, guest blogging etc.)
  • Shares and re-posts.
  • User-generated content.


How to Maximise Earned Media

☆ Leverage your owned media on your earned media channels to forge stronger relationships with prospects and customers on your “home ground”.
☆ Create helpful content, keeping “shareability” and “news-worthiness” in mind.
☆ Ask for reviews.
☆ Prioritise link building.
☆ Sharpen your PR skills: build media relations, share press releases and send products for unboxing and reviews.
☆ Invite authoritative guests to your earned media channels in the hopes of reciprocity.


3. Paid Media

Ah, here’s a term most digital marketers know, paid media. It is often used interchangeably with advertising. That’s because paid media refers to “external marketing efforts that involve a paid placement,” as BigCommerce succinctly says.

Why do you still need paid media in the age of SMM? Paid media gives you the pole position in front of prospects, and it yields the fastest returns.


Examples of Paid Media

  • SERP advertising Google Ads (formally AdWords and PPC)
  • Display advertising (Google display partner network; website banners, billboards, leader boards and takeovers)
  • YouTube advertising
  • Podcast opening and closing billboards
  • Boosted posts
  • Promoted content
  • Sponsored content and sponsorships
  • Retargeting
  • Paid influencers


How to Maximise Paid Media

☆ Optimise, optimise, optimise.
☆ Keep your organic marketing optimised and authoritative (this underpins better performance).
☆ Target accurately (don’t spray and pray). You don’t have to be on every channel. Spend your money talking to a qualified audience.
☆ Use professional content creators to create high-performing artwork (and copy).
☆ Use analytics and insights to refine your campaigns.


Bonus: The Secret Weapon

A digital marketing strategy will forever be the key ingredient to maximising your digital media performance.

The benefits of a digital marketing strategy are clearly defined goals and a road map on how to achieve taking a holistic look at your marketing activities and leveraging them to optimise efficacy.

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