The headline reporting a new study from Nielsen caught my eye recently. It said that 92% of consumers trust ‘earned media’ the most. There’s some interesting data in the report, especially the connection between relevance and trust, but I find the ‘earned media’ description misleading.
Earned media used to mean editorial in ‘the media’ (i.e. defined mainstream press/TV/radio/online) until Forrester redefined it to include word-of-mouth, friends’ recommendations, etc. (i.e. any kind of third party comment), as part of their Paid, Owned and Earned Media (POEM) model. Under this model there is no real surprise that ‘earned media’ generates most consumer trust. But since when was a chat down the pub with your mates ‘media’?
Part of the problem in defining where ‘social’ media sits comes from a similar looseness in definition – e.g. describing types of content when we mean the platform it sits on… and vice versa. Or confusing the communications intent of content with its attributes. Most of us have been guilty at times of switching from one description to another, sometimes mid sentence… Yet, for planning and analysis purposes, we need to maintain some rigour or we will forever be comparing Apples with Galaxies.
So here is my own four-part media model based primarily on type of content rather than platform or communications intent, for your review and comment.
Time or space purchased on someone’s else’s platform, e.g. an advertisement or a sponsorship logo, jingle or ID. Total message control, usually within legal or regulatory limits.
Reportage or editorial created by journalists working for a recognised media third party (originally the press, TV and radio but since expanded to include online) on their closed platforms, based on elements (text, graphics, video) provided by others or by investigation.
Controlled content on a closed platform e.g. a brochure, retail space or website. Total control subject only to legal restriction.
Anyone can play on an open platform. It’s about us not just about me. We can all engage as equals. Aka social media.
“Wait a minute!”, I hear you say, ”life ain’t that simple. All this is already mixed up and getting more so.” And you’re right. It certainly is. There is increasing confusion between media types (i.e. the nature of the published content itself) and its intended purpose, the channel it is on, the device which delivers it, the degree of interaction which is possible and, of course, its ownership.
For example, brands’ tweets frequently seem like they are just mini-advertisements: the UK’s Financial Times does this a lot, signposting its earned media content to build readership and thus boost rates for its bought media offerings. On the other hand, advertisements can include shared elements (real or gloss). Similarly, traditional, journalist-created blogs are open to interaction with readers to create shared content. Meanwhile apps and smart devices have opened up new ways to ‘gamify’ previously fixed content, making it not only interactive but potentially social. The list goes on.
No model can be completely simple but for me a publishing/content based media model works best as a starting point. Twitter may be used like an ad channel but is first and foremost a shared media platform. The FT may share its content but is essentially an earned media platform. A website may have shared elements (like this one) but is fundamentally an owned medium. And an advertisement dressed up as an invitation to join a promotion on Facebook is still bought media.
What about you? Happy to move beyond POEM to BEOS? Got a better model to share?
Update: Since drafting this post yesterday evening, I see our client and partner Paratus Communication’s Adam Vincenzini has been pursuing a similar line of thought.