A popular model to describe today’s media landscape is to classify different media channels as paid, owned and earned.

Paid, owned, and earned media.
Paid, owned, earned — a simple yet effective model.
  • Paid channels include advertising, sponsorships and ambassador collaborations.
  • Owned channels include newsletters, websites, and publications for internal or external use.
  • Earned channels include news articles, influencer endorsements, and word-of-mouth.

Crystal clear, right? Well, enter social media. These types of channels defy classification in an almost elegant way. Allow brand activities on Facebook to illustrate this:

Facebook (paid): When you advertise your brands, products, and services on Facebook, it falls under marketing (i.e. programmatic advertising).

Facebook (owned): When you “own” a Facebook Page and publish editorial content, it falls under communications (i.e. social media publishing).

Facebook (earned): When people talk about or with your brand and share your messages among themselves on Facebook, it falls under communications (i.e. community management).

As a consequence, many brands struggle to decide who’s responsible for what when it comes to digital marketing and communications. And, to make matters even more complex, some experts now argue that we need a fourth type of channel class, borrowed:

Different types of media.
The suggested new classification of media channels.

The argument is that you’re only “borrowing” your Facebook page since Facebook can decide to change the game whenever and however they want. Given Facebook Zero, this makes some sense.

Update 2020-06-30: Over the years, the model has evolved and “borrowed” has been replaced with “shared” — and thus forming the elegant acronym PESO. In the article Tracking the measurement origins of PESO, Heather Yaxley at PRConversations highlights many of these evolutions.

For instance, the late Don Bartholomew, vice president of digital research at Fleishman Hillard discussed the PESO model already back in 2010.

In Tracking the measurement origins of PESO, Heather Yaxley highlights the widely shared PESO model outlined by Gini Dietrich at Spin Sucks:

“In June 2013, Gini Dietrich presented the first iteration of the PESO model you may recognise in a blog post: The Four Different Types of Media. It was followed in August by the post Mobile Marketing: Use the Four Media Types in Promotion, where she talked about integrating paid, earned, owned, and shared. This version of the PESO model gained increased recognition in 2014 following publication of the book Spin Sucks. […] A refreshed model graphic and process was published by Gini in February/March 2020 – with Reputation added to the centre. This image is shared via Creative Commons and credited to Spin Sucks. Coming full circle, in April, Gini posted PR Metrics: What to Measure in a PESO Model Program setting out metrics for each of the PESO categories from a PR perspective.”

Photo by Tom Crew on Unsplash.