The 4 Types of Media: Are You Doing Everything You Can to Reach Your Audience?

Published on June 26, 2013

Business owners know that using "media" is the best way to target mass audiences.  But what does that word, media, encapsulate?  How do we classify and manage our buckets of media? 

We could try to communicate it ourselves, but our good friend Gini Dietrich, lead blogger at, and CEO of marketing and communications firm Arment Dietrich, nailed it in a blog post that spans just about two printed pages.  In The Four Different Types of Media, Gini describes: paid media, earned media, owned media, and shared media.  [If you like reading Gini, you should check out the book she co-authored with Geoff Livingston, Marketing in the Round. Love you Gini, and Go Steelers! (Liam made me do it.)]

Paid Media
Paid Media is essentially paid advertisements - commercials, Facebook ads, billboards...anything with a price tag on it.  Creative agencies come into play here, along with their design teams and sales experts.  While this is probably the most effective form of reaching your target audience, it is also the most expensive.
Earned Media
This falls under the public relations umbrella - aka publicity.  PR firms are consulted rather frequently to get a product or company out there on big name newspapers, magazines, news stations, or talk shows.  Unfortunately, hiring PR firms is expensive, time consuming, and will not necessarily yield the desired results, in particular if this effort is done in isolation, rather than a consolidated approach.
Owned Media
Owned media is something we at Geek | Chicago actually get excited about. This is content the business or brand creates.  Websites that embrace "owned media"  take on a life of their own, with usable interactive features as a part of them - think webinars, podcasts, or (ahem...) blogs.  These tools are either self-built (or outsourced to, and collaborated with a consultant), and serve to let your website/online-presence supply its own media and, ultimately, have it speak for and market itself.
Shared Media
This ties directly into Owned Media.  Say you have souped up your website with a fantastically informative blog, weekly podcasts, the works.  This is all good in theory, except for one thing: no one knows about it.

Here comes the art of Shared Media, which is to say, the art of sharing your Owned Media.  This pertains to having your website show up on Google when someone searches for something that pertains to your product, and making sure you're synced up with Social Media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

The art of sharing is increasingly taking on elements of science.  That is, we know some approaches are more effective than others.  Geek | Chicago acts like a Sharing Sherpa for many of our clients. You don't have to go it alone.

What do these media types mean to you?
In the end, we have a better understanding each day of the importance of a coordinated strategy to get all of these elements working together.

The real strength at the intersection of technology and marketing today is two-fold: consumer choice and operational efficiency.  We'll explore each of these concepts in more detail in future posts, but ultimately we know that:

  • Savvy consumers will tell you, the business, where they want to receive your message. It's called subscriptions, follows, likes, re-Tweets, favorites, gleeps, knerples, and shwinkles (yeah, we made a few of those up.) Are they willing to sign up for your weekly newsletter and take on another email in their inbox?  If they love you, they will.  But perhaps you can break the ice by appearing occasionally in their Twitter feed or Facebook stream.  Maybe they want to come to your blog at their leisure.  Your message needs to pervade all of these channels, and with consistency.
  • Technology allows us to scale and distribute efficiently and economically.  Tools like Hootsuite and MailChimp are cheap-cheap and do much of the heavy lifting. 

What's your approach to reaching the consumer where they live?  Are you silent as a mouse?  Are you inundating your audience with message?  Or, have you found that sweet spot?  Do you inform, educate, and give the impression - "hey, we're here when you need us"?  Well... you should.