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Paid, Owned, Earned, Leased In Digital Marketing

By December 10, 2015March 24th, 2016No Comments


A common lens for viewing the different types of digital marketing properties and assets is the P/O/E or Paid, Owned, and Earned differentiation. In this post I want to propose that though this model remains valid, a new category of digital marketing properties, specifically related to social media, should be considered. I call this category ‘leased.’

Lets look first at the common categories.



Paid marketing has been the most traditional approach to getting eyes on your marketing message since the early days of print. Money = Eyeballs was the typical math. This has help true throughout the evolution of digital platforms as well because channel owners are always willing to carve out some space for your message to get to the right audience for the fee.



As the internet evolved, established brands recognized the relatively small investment that was needed to create a digital home for their brand and marketing efforts, and the people would come to it in much the same way they would a brick and mortar location to consume the content being offered up. This method depended heavily on name recognition, brand awareness, and cross-promotion through traditional paid channels.



With the advent of Social Media, marketers salivated at the idea of an increased reach with minimal dollars invested in content creation or paid channel access. These marketers aimed for the viral effect of entertaining content, niche segment messaging, and brand loyalty to propel their efforts for essentially ‘free’ advertising to their core audiences.

The evolution of such platforms as Facebook has provided a slap in the face of those expecting the organic reach of their earned properties to do more work for them. This happened abruptly in 2014 with Facebook’s algorithm updates which effectively held brand likes hostage for advertising dollars. Facebook clearly did this in the interest of better serving their user base but also to directly provide a financial base to make the network viable.


Image from Titan SEO


What this means is that you do not own the properties you think you do on social media. You are but a tenant in the currently low-rent world of digital marketing which will become increasingly gentrified as Facebook has demonstrated. This is likely to be true on any web property not under your actual ownership. Marketers should start to view these properties with the expectation that they will require an ongoing investment of funds to maintain or grow reach. The good news is that the same exponential and viral impact is possible without a proportionate increase in cost.

As you consider your digital marketing strategy for the new year, be sure to set aside an appropriate amount of funds to invest in your social media channels to ensure continued and growing reach. Chances are those costs are not likely to go down over time.


Photo by Kevin Dooley

Scott Bothel

I'm a digital marketing consultant living and working in the Greater Seattle area. My passion is to help small businesses leverage web marketing to accomplish great things!