A Literacy of the Imagination

a deeper look at innovation through the lenses of media, technology, venture investment and hyperculture

What It Means to Earn Media

Marc Brownstein posted something interesting today in AdAge’s Small Agency diary on how ‘free media won’t be the end of paid agencies’; his post and respective comments carried very salient points, but I thought what was missing was the notion of how media really needs to be earned, and what that entails.


The following is my response:

Nice post, Marc, as always.

For starters, one key distinction should be made: "free media" should really be labeled as "earned media". In the social realm, and considering the glut of branded content on offer, this distinction must be acknowledged because many brands don't have the equity (or the relevance) to create engagement by simply offering up free content. As one colleague put it recently, in a social context, we ARE the media, and therefore it must be an earned dynamic.

Another point I'd like to address with respect to what binarypoet said is the notion that "agencies can push big budget campaigns to more targeted audiences". I think you'll find a lot of pushback here. For one, shareable content shouldn't be confined to a campaign construct (how can it be?), and for another, innovative thinking demands that we move away from creating ad-like objects. So at the end of the day, big agencies will most often strive to serve their big media models, not earned media, simply because there is way too much management and operational inertia. Don't get me wrong, there are many talented people within these ranks, it's just that the new economics don't favor the system.

Finally, your point about TV is really interesting; I think this is a legacy medium that does speak very well to online extensions (there is plenty of research to back this up). The great challenge now is to develop ways that can bundle media and at the same time create content that can live 'beyond the buy'. Further, there are new opportunities to develop show properties through the use of 'online piloting'. But, to binarypoet's point, the system and respective models must change, and how soon that will happen is the billion dollar question.