Before the digital marketing age, launching a full-scale owned media strategy was expensive. If you wanted to publish and distribute your own content, you had to pay for materials, printing, and shipping costs. Some retailers even charged a fee to offset expenses. For example, the 1896 Sears, Roebuck & Company catalog cost recipients 25¢, which would be roughly $9 in 2023.
Thanks to online publication options, creating and distributing owned content is much more affordable today. Businesses of all sizes use owned media to increase brand awareness, build relationships with current and potential customers, and boost sales.
What is owned media?
Owned media refers to any content your company publishes using a marketing channel you control, such as your website or another web property, social media accounts, or marketing emails. These channels are sometimes referred to as owned media channels or owned media properties.
Implementing an owned media strategy can help businesses raise brand recognition, increase traffic to their online stores, generate leads, and build relationships with potential customers.
Businesses use owned media channels to publish both promotional and non-promotional content. Promotional content directly advertises or promotes your products, services, or company. Non-promotional content provides value to your target audiences but doesn’t explicitly promote your brand.
Publishing engaging content on your own channels can also increase the effectiveness of your overall content marketing efforts: Owned content can provide immediate value to people who find you through other means (such as a paid ad click or a word-of-mouth referral), increasing the likelihood that they’ll take other desirable actions like follow your social media profiles, sign up for an email campaign, or make a purchase.
7 types of owned media
- Marketing and product page content
- Blog content
- Resource center content
- Social media posts
- Email marketing campaigns
- In-app content
- Direct mail
Owned media is typically grouped by channel. Here’s a list of common types:
1. Marketing and product page content
Your website or online store is an owned media property, so anything you publish there is technically a type of owned media. Marketing and product page content is particularly valuable for ecommerce businesses, which use these pages to describe the unique benefits of their products or services and encourage potential customers to make a purchase.
2. Blog content
Businesses use blogs to publish entertaining, educational, informational, and promotional content. For example, if you sell wrinkle-resistant khakis, you might announce a new product line and describe its features in a blog post on your company website. You may also publish a series of job search and interview tips, topics that are adjacent to wearing khakis.
Because most blogs display recently published content at the top of the blog’s homepage, they’re also a popular outlet for timely or seasonal materials, such as content about current events or a guide to holiday gifting.
3. Resource center content
Resource centers typically contain content marketing materials—i.e., they provide value to a particular target audience but don’t explicitly promote your products. For example, if you sell fruit trees and vegetable seeds, you might create a gardening resource center and publish articles like “The best time to plant an outdoor vegetable garden” and “What to do with green tomatoes.” You might even host tree-pruning and canning webinars.
4. Social media posts
Social media content is sometimes referred to as shared media. Because you don’t technically own the social media platform, this social content isn’t owned media in the truest sense of the word.
Despite this, posting content to social media channels follows a process similar to that of posting owned media on your own website. As long as you don’t violate the social channel’s rules and regulations, you have complete control over what and when you post.
Companies use social channels to both promote products directly and share content that’s meant to educate or entertain. You can also use social media posts to drive traffic to your other owned media channels. For example, a video that shows a customer taking a pair of rollerblades purchased from your company out for a spin might contain a link to the relevant product page on your online store.
5. Email marketing campaigns
Email marketing allows businesses to send messages directly to current or potential customers. Like social media, email content can include product marketing, promotions, and informational or entertaining content. For example, you might announce a sale or a product drop or send a newsletter with customer stories or styling advice. Like social media posts, marketing emails can also include links that drive traffic to your other owned media channels.
6. In-app content
Mobile apps you create for your company are also owned media channels. Exact content types depend on the app’s purpose, but common formats include help center content, mobile product pages, and a mobile shopping cart.
7. Direct mail
Direct mail content is an example of traditional owned media. Just as in email marketing, businesses “own” an address list, but instead of emails, direct mail campaigns involve sending physical newsletters or promotional materials like flyers, catalogs, or postcards directly to target customers.
What does an owned media strategy look like?
Owned media campaigns start with a strategy. Before you create content, understand why you’re creating it, who you’re targeting, and where you plan to publish.
Here are the three main elements of an owned media strategy:
1. Set campaign goals
Set measurable goals that support your overall business goals for your owned media efforts. For example, if you want to increase sales by 5% in the upcoming calendar year, you might set the goal of capturing 50 new leads per quarter and increasing organic traffic to your site by 15% over the same period.
2. Do audience and market research
An effective owned media strategy provides value to your target audiences. Before doing this, you need to know who your customers are and why they need your product.
Start by reviewing your business’s existing target audience data, including age, gender, geographic location, income, and level of education. Depending on how detailed you want to get, you may also research their interests, needs, buying cycles, and decision drivers. If you don’t have this information yet, you can send customer satisfaction surveys to your existing customers or create buyer personas—fictionalized representations of your ideal types of customers.
You can also use target market research to fill in gaps in your audience research and help you understand your value to potential customers. Target market research focuses on identifying the characteristics and needs of your ideal customers, while audience research is a broader term for the analysis of a wider range of individuals or groups who interact with your company. To understand the market conditions around your product or service, conduct interviews or focus groups. You can also read industry publications, government reports, academic research, or competitor materials.
For example, if you sell shoes designed to relieve the symptoms of bunions, you might review an NIH study to determine the prevalence of bunions in different demographics, review competitor materials that highlight the adverse health effects of living with bunions, and read up on patient concerns in the Lower Extremity Review.
3. Craft a content strategy
Once you’ve identified the need for your product and gathered information about your target audiences, develop your content strategy:
- Craft key messages. Use information about customer pain points and decision drivers to craft marketing messages for your owned media efforts. For example, a company that sells a hands-free, low-heat hair dryer to professional women between 28 and 55 might want to drive the following messages: The product saves time, it can improve hair health, and it can boost your confidence.
- Develop content pillars. Use key messages, campaign goals, and audience information to identify topics that support your objectives and provide value to your target audiences. The hands-free hair dryer company might select the science of hair health, hair styling tips, product features, and career advice for women.
- Identify publication channels. Identify the owned media channels on which you publish content, prioritizing outlets popular with your target audiences. Keep your goals in mind too; for example, if you want to capture new leads, you must include a lead-capture channel (like your website). If you’re just starting out, you might focus on popular publication channels like social media, email, and your company blog.
5 tips for owned media success
- Optimize content for search engines
- Standardize your content creation process
- Cross-promote content
- Publish in multiple formats
- Post guest content
These five best practices can help you implement a successful owned media strategy:
1. Optimize content for search engines
Search engine optimization (SEO) refers to several tactics that can improve the performance of web content in search engine rankings and increase website traffic volume.
One way to leverage SEO in your owned media strategy is to plan content around specific keywords, i.e., words or phrases that might appear in a target customer’s search query. You can use a free keyword research tool (like Moz Keyword Explorer or Keyword Surfer Extension) to research keyword volumes and how difficult it is to rank for them.
Once you’ve identified your target keywords, create SEO-optimized content by incorporating them into blog posts on your website. You can also use header descriptions, meta tags, alt tags, and search-engine-friendly layouts to format SEO content for success.
2. Standardize your content creation process
Creating quality content can be time- and resource-intensive. To standardize your content creation process, document it and use it consistently. This can help increase efficiency, minimize errors, and make it easier to outsource or delegate specific tasks to freelancers or members of your team.
Here’s a sample 10 step process to get you started:
- Ideation. Use audience research and campaign goals to come up with content ideas.
- Concept validation. Verify that the content ideas align with campaign goals and audience needs, research competing content, and approve content ideas.
- Keyword planning. Conduct keyword research and select target keywords for a particular piece of content.
- Drafting. Create the written content.
- Review. Review the content and send revision notes to the writer.
- Revision. Revise the content based on revision requests.
- Content approval. Approve the written content.
- Design. Add visual design elements as needed based on the publication channel.
- Design approval. Verify that the design is ready for publication.
- Publication. Distribute the content on selected platforms.
3. Cross-promote content
Owned media cross-promotion is the process of using owned channels to promote content hosted on other owned channels. Cross-promotion can increase the number of people who see a particular piece of content and leverage a particularly strong following on one channel to boost impressions on another.
For example, you might direct traffic from social channels to your blog by posting a teaser and encouraging social media users to click through. Or, you might include a featured Instagram post in your email newsletter to encourage email subscribers to follow your social media accounts.
4. Publish in multiple formats
Different content formats perform better on different channels, appeal to different users, and are better suited to different types of subject matter. Successful owned media strategies provide multiple options for engaging with owned content.
For example, because visual content earns higher engagement rates on social channels than text-only content, you might accompany a blog post about the environmental benefits of buying second-hand clothing with an infographic that visualizes the same content. You might also experiment with short-form video or audio content and monitor engagements to see what formats resonate most with your particular target audiences.
5. Post guest content
Publishing guest content can help you increase awareness and build relationships with other brands, industry experts, and creators. It can also help you publish a higher content volume for minimal additional costs.
For example, if your ecommerce company sells herbal liqueurs, you might invite the owner of a local bar to publish a series of guest posts on your blog featuring cocktail recipes and pairing recommendations using your products. You get free, relevant content, access to the bar owner’s audience, and an implied recommendation from an industry expert. In turn, the bar owner gets access to your audiences and the reputational boost of being recognized by your company as a leader in the space.
Owned media FAQ
What are some business advantages of focusing on owned media?
Owned media content can provide immediate value to customers who find you through other means, increasing the likelihood that they will take a desired action like following your social media profiles, signing up for an email campaign, or making a purchase.
What is the difference between earned media and paid media?
Paid media refers to content distributed using paid placements, including PPC (pay-per-click) ads, sponsored content, and other paid ad types, while earned media refers to unpaid coverage by media outlets, individuals, or other brands. News articles in print or online publications and customer reviews are both earned media examples.
What is an example of owned media?
Branded video content on a company’s YouTube channel is one example of owned content.
What is the goal of earned media for small businesses?
Earned media coverage can help small businesses increase brand recognition and authority.