All Media Is Earned

August 13, 2014

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A few years ago, as social media was exploding and the discussion around paid, earned, shared and owned was in full force, a phrase started to make its way around marketing and communications circles – “all media is social.”

Those touting the phrase were definitely on to something. Whether content originally appears as a story in a newspaper, an ad on TV, a post on a blog or a picture on Instagram, it now has the ability to be linked to, liked, shared, favorited, retweeted and commented on to give it a longer tail than ever before.

“All media is social” is still relevant and accurate today, but perhaps less eye-catching than in the past because it’s now so widely accepted. The discussion as of late has focused more on the rise of paid content – native advertising on media platforms, paid targeting and amplification of social content and paid amplification of news stories.

As the use of paid content by brands continues to increase, more data is starting to surface regarding its effectiveness. For example, in a recent call for more marketers to embrace native ads, Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer cited the following stats:

• Viewers of native ads are 3.6 times more likely to perform a branded search than viewers of traditional display ads
• Viewers of native ads are six times more likely to do a related search
• 46 percent of millennials who noticed branded content say they consumed the content
• One-third of those millennials shared the branded content

Additionally, Upworthy recently claimed sponsored content on its platform actually performs better than its original editorial content.

So what does this mean for brands?

It means more and more brands will start jumping in, so the editorial standard for paid content has to rise to match the amount of noise in the stream. It’s similar to when brands first started jumping into social – just being there used to be enough to be seen and engaged with. But now, with the overload of content coming at consumers from all angles, the standard for what breaks through is incredibly high. And now paid content is finding itself in a similar situation.

Think about it – if you don’t like a TV ad today, you can fast-forward. If you don’t like the pre-roll on a video you can ask to skip it. If your paid Facebook post isn’t relevant enough, people won’t engage with it. If your blog post wasn’t interacted with enough, it won’t show well in search results. If your sponsored content package doesn’t meet the editorial standard of the outlet you’re working with, they’ll reject it.

The point is that today, all media is earned. Regardless of whether that media is in the form of a blog post, a native ad, a paid social post or a media pitch, it has to meet a standard of editorial quality so high that will it be seen as relevant and worth the time of the audience it’s meant for. Otherwise, it will have no shot at being consumed amidst today’s content overload.

My colleague Ephraim Cohen made some very relevant points in his recent post “Here’s What the Media in Social Media Means,” including:

“Facebook is a media property, and the best media properties demand the best stories for their users. What Facebook’s (and, for that matter, Google’s) technology looks for is no different than what an editor at a top news site might require: Is this content on a topic that people want to know more about and discuss, and is it accurate, authoritative and of sufficient quality that people will then want to share it?”

Cohen’s point comparing the technology of Facebook and Google to an editor at a top news site is a very important one. It reinforces the need for those crafting stories of any kind, meant for any channel, to meet an editorial standard that those in the PR business have been held to for years.

So those in the PR field today should leap at the chance to manage paid content for their brands or clients. After all, all media today is earned, and PR pros have been dealing in earned media for decades.