Is earned media on the way out?

Recent surveys suggest that paid, shared and owned media are rising in importance and impact, leaving earned media behind.

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Earned media, long the mainstay of public relations, is rapidly dwindling in importance, changing the nature of public relations.

Many PR leaders defend the value of earned media, but others argue PR must adapt to the inevitable.

Asked what communications strategies would be most valuable to their companies in the future, CEOs cited social media and online influencers, also called shared media, (38%) and owned media (36%), according to the 2019 USC Annenberg Global Communications Report. Far fewer (14%) ranked earned media high.

The decline in earned media puts financial pressure on agencies, who rely on the strategy for a large piece of their income. Agencies predict that shared, paid and owned media will drive more income to make up the difference.

Lines blur between earned, paid and owned media

Communications experts participating in the USC Annenberg survey say the distinction between paid, earned and owned media is blurring. Most (62%) predict future consumers won’t be able to distinguish between a piece of information written by a reporter, paid for by a brand or shared by an influencer. Another 55% believe people won’t even care where this information is coming from.

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