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Advertising and in media are experiencing a moment of convergence. The lines are blurring between paid, earned and owned media. Each is bleeding into the other, blurring the lines between where advertising, marketing and consumer-generated media begin…and end.

Examples of earned and owned media that morph into paid:

Facebook: Among their new ad units are pieces of content (owned media) from brand pages that can be converted into an ad unit. “Anything you can do on your page,” Facebook promises  brand advertisers, “you can do in an ad.” Earned gets rolled into the equation as these ads are displayed to friends-of-fans, along with Likes and other forms of CGM.


Bazaarvoice: The company that built its reputation on powering ratings and reviews has moved these forms of owned media into both paid and owned media. Take their new ad units that display user review in standard display formats. Reviews can be targeted on a number of demographic and behavioral factors, e.g. gender, geo-location, or products viewed.

Microsoft: dotJWT created a campaign aimed at the IT community by monitoring conversations in an online discussion network. Comments that were particularly favorable or trenchant were pulled from the private community and plunked into display units. “Geeks don’t respond to advertising, they respond to other geeks,” dotJWT head Jon Baker told me.

This examples are just the tip of a very large iceberg. Paid can take a reverse course and morph into owned. And earned. Or both. Consider the long lives of advertising spokes-characters on the web: The Old Spice Guy. The Most Interesting Man in the World. Seinfeld & Superman. This list seems endless.

So, with the publication of a research report on content marketing behind me, it’s time to take notes, amass material and look into another area of digital disruption: the convergence and confluence of paid, earned and owned. I’ll be working on this project with my colleague Jeremiah Owyang. Stay tuned for more on the topic as our research theme takes shape and the process begins.

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