The End of the Paid Media Addiction

Note: This post first appeared on

Going through my Twitter stream today (owned media) I caught a headline and video on TechCrunch that resonated a lot with my thinking lately about marketing spend and how many companies struggle with earned and owned media- and hence this blog post that you are reading (earned media).   An SEO software company, Conductor, launched a new campaign called the End of Paid Media and it’s great!

At LocalVox, we’ve spent a lot of time studying the impact of paid and earned media on both the SMB and multi-unit businesses.  Many companies spend a lion’s share of their marketing monies on paid media (see Retail 150 Local Marketing Report Card: An Analysis of Owned and Earned Media).  And we have our own opinion to share.

Is Paid Media an Addiction?

The video is a poignant satire comparing paid media to an addiction which we think is remarkably apt. “Once you get addicted to the juice, you can never stop.”.  That’s not to say that paid media cannot be effective (including in supporting inbound efforts), but that there are dangers to relying on it so heavily.

For most multi-unit brick-and-mortar brands such as large retailers, restaurant chains, childcare brands and service providers the paid media budget dwarfs organic and earned media development.  We believe this represents a large missed opportunity as owned and earned media continue to outperform paid advertising by every metric we track including volume of clicks (94% vs. 6%), lead volumecost per leads that are 62% less, lifetime value of a customer, retention, etc.  Independent research has confirmed what we have seen.

Unfortunately, it’s also true, although less so at the local business level. Many are pouring money into Adwords or Facebook advertising and when the budgets dry up, they haven’t built any lasting. client interactions and owned media presence.

Owned and Earned Media vs. Paid Media


Seth Godin pointed out the difference between Permission Marketing and Interruption Marketing over a decade ago. In many ways, paid media is the easy way out.  It’s the way that doesn’t ask the hard questions.  How do you differentiate your brand?  How do you add value to your customers?  Whys should they opt in to your messaging?  Why should they subscribe for the long term to your Facebook, Twitter or email newsletter?  Why should your customers become champions of your brand?

For the long term, these are the questions that will drive both your business success and your online marketing success.  Of course that’s not to say that paid media doesn’t have a role in marketing.  We believe for many businesses paid media can be remarkably effective.  It’s just that the infrastructure for organic marketing should be prioritized and in fact increases the effectiveness of paid media in customer conversion and word of mouth amplification of campaigns.

Conductor seems to have rebranded from SEO to “Web Presence Management.”  At LocalVox, we think of it beyond the web.  From client emails and one to one communications to responding on social media and directory review sites.  Everywhere your business is online and frankly beyond. It’s a mentality. We think of it as content marketing.  Owned and earned media.  Truly organic. No additives or preservatives or artificial ingredients added.