Altimeter Report: the Convergence of Paid, Owned and Earned Media

Co-author Rebecca Lieb

Co-author Rebecca Lieb

By now, you probably know what paid, owned and earned media are. If you don’t, you might be new in marketing or might have missed phenomena such as blogging and forums in the nineties. You probably also know that the number of media and channels has been growing for years now, often at adoption speeds we never witnessed before.

In marketing these media and channels all have their place, depending on your goals and customers, in a smart mix that revolves around the different touchpoints in the customer journey and stages in the customer life cycle. Easy, although media proliferation made it look harder. Furthermore, it’s mainly the number of touchpoints that has grown.

Altimeter Group released a report, written by Rebecca Lieb, Jeremiah Owyang, Jessica Groopman and Chris Silva, shedding more light on the evolutions in these areas, mainly from a media and content marketing perspective. It’s called “The Converged Media Imperative: How Brands Must Combine Paid, Owned, and Earned Media.”

The convergence of paid owned and earned media - Altimeter Group

The convergence of paid owned and earned media – Altimeter Group

In the report, Altimeter describes the dynamic customer journey and the convergence of the three mentioned types of media: paid, owned and earned. The report also stresses that no single medium can stand alone.

Customer-centric marketers know the only approach that works is an integrated one that of course is about a dynamic customer journey. The customer journey has always been dynamic, cross-channel and non-linear. In recent years, it only became clearer. Funnel models are models, not reflections of the customer journey reality. Furthermore, it’s not only about channel or media integration. It’s simply about a digital marketing or business strategy, which by definition should be integrated.

No medium or channel should be disconnected. That’s the very essence of marketing and what we know as a mix. It’s also the essence of a customer-centric instead of channel-oriented view. We are not the center of the universe and our content, media and channels are merely servants of business goals, the customer journey and relevance as a way to revenue. The convergence of paid, owned and earned media is a natural evolution.

Converged media: paid, owned and earned media with a twist

The report is interesting and describes “Converged Media” as “utilizing two or more channels of paid, earned, and owned media…characterized by a consistent storyline, look, and feel…(whereby)…all channels work in concert, enabling brands to reach customers exactly where, how, and when they want, regardless of channel, medium, or device, online or offline“.

Altimeter does a great job at reminding us that a campaign-focused mindset can be as suffocating as  a channel-focused one. Obviously, every ingredient and channel matters but they have to work in concert and across the silos that still exist in so many businesses. The report further demystifies this artificial separation of paid, owned and earned media by emphasizing that so-called consumer media, advertising and corporate content as co-author Jeremiah Owyang writes, indeed converge into one media type.

This is not about being unclear regarding advertising. It’s about acknowledging the integration that already happens (e.g. ads with reviews). That’s a challenge for agencies and their existing revenue models (aligning agencies and vendors is one of the success criteria).

Converged Media Success Criteria - Source Altimeter Group

Converged Media Success Criteria – Source: Altimeter Group

Beyond paid, owned and earned media: experiences and integration

Media convergence, to me, is also about the integration and cross-fertilization underlying it, with the customer (experience) in the middle. If you really know what customer-centric marketing – and relevant advertising – is about and have understood that it’s not about media but about experiences, touchpoints and conversions (including social ones), integration should not be new. In case it is, I urge you to start thinking about marketing from a holistic and touch point oriented viewpoint.

In general, it often strikes me that we often talk about integration and the customer journey as the shiny new thing. Why is that? Just two considerations.

  1. The rediscovery of B2B marketing
    Although  we like to say B2B marketing and B2C marketing are dead and replaced by people-to-people marketing or whatever term we use, there always have been and still are differences between both. In B2B marketing often a more personal approach, in tune with the customer journey was (and still is) possible. What we are witnessing for several years now is the ‘discovery’ or ‘entrance’ of proven B2B marketing strategies in B2C environments. Hence the fact we often tend to reinvent the wheel.
  2. Silos are not a generational thing.
    Younger generations that grew up with social media, Web 2.0 and whatnot, were as focused on media (and channels) as – admit it – many of their older peers. The absurd obsession with media, channels and, in the end, platforms, such as Facebook, was looked upon from the medium perspective from day one. The same silos we have been fighting for ages and the Altimeter report advises us to fight as well, have been strengthened by a whole new breed of marketers that learned nothing from the past. As said, in a way even the distinction between paid, owned and earned media was an artificial one. It’s nice to see that Altimeter recognizes this when writing “outlying channels don’t neatly conform to the categories of paid/owned/earned media” and mentioning hybrid media.

Channels and media matter. Integration as well. However, what should drive you every single day is the customer experience and every little touchpoint – regardless of media and channels – that constitutes it. If you haven’t done that yet, focusing on relevance and a measured approach from the customer journey perspective, you are years behind leading businesses that are doing it with success since ages.

Good marketing is by definition integrated. What more do we need to finally understand that?

The report is a way to start from the media perspective and provides good interviews, strategic considerations and key success factors (see figure II). It also contains an overview of some players in the converged media vendor ecosystem (yes, it’s about applications as well).

Read it and think even further and beyond media convergence or converged media. Think experiences, preferences, intent and touchpoints too.

Join us on June 10th in Antwerp, Belgium, for the Content Marketing Conference Europe. With confirmed speakers such as Jay Baer, Lee Odden, Mike Corak, Doug Kessler, Kelly Hungerford, Dado Van Peteghem, Tristan Lavender, Guido Everaert, Tom De Baere and Xaviera Ringeling (more to be announced), we'll take you across a learning experience leading to tangible insights and actionable inspiration, moderated by media expert Jo Caudron!


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