anachronism — A thing belonging or appropriate to a period other than that in which it exists, esp. a thing that is conspicuously old-fashioned (Source: Google Search)
Perhaps anachronism is a little harsh, but not by much. The whole concept pf earned media, as part of the triumvirate of Earned, Paid and Owned, has always been a little squishy. There’s just something a little bogus in the idea that the story being told was so tremendously good that the brand earned its non-paid media mention in a story, when of course brands, entertainment properties and celebrities spend millions of dollars every month to PR agencies and publicists to obtain these placements. There’s nothing unpaid about earned media.
Nevertheless, earned media is where “we” have been accounting for the results of blogger outreach and other word of mouth engagement programs. In part because many early social media engagement programs originated in PR agencies for whom the earned media model made sense (or at least as much sense as it ever will.)
Certainly more so than paid media, which was clearly understood to be paid advertising media, and owned media, which is a bit more complex but boils down to the assets that the company controls – its packaging, trucks, website and so on.
The problem is that nothing is that simple. It never was, but social media and the rise of the engaged consumer has changed the dynamic to the point that classifying things into three buckets just doesn’t work any more.
Blogger outreach programs often include freelance fees paid to the bloggers for their work. So that’s paid media, I guess. When readers of those posts leave comments or post to Facebook or tweet about the posts? Earned. What about if the blogger who was paid to write a post, either a sponsored post on her own blog or as a freelance assignment, tweets it out on her own initiative?
Digital ads almost always include Share icons for Twitter and Facebook. So the media is paid, but the sharing is what? Pearned, for paid + earned?
And then there’s Facebook. How do we classify the activity on Facebook? A brand page is owned, I suppose. But are the comments earned? And what about custom promotional tabs? Are those owned or paid? And when someone shares it, is it now earned?
Clearly, we’ve outgrown these simple models of Paid, Earned and Owned.
What matters is whether consumers want to share. It doesn’t really matter whether the story you are telling starts in paid, earned or owned media.
Will consumers share it?
This concept of shared, or shareable, media is easy to understand. Much harder to execute, because it crosses so many functional lines – media, PR, marketing, advertising, creative. Much harder to measure, because it is more than pageviews or Twitter followers.
Up for the challenge? I am, and would love to hear how you are navigating this world.