April 4, 2023

What is Paid Media? Definition, Types, and Examples

What is Paid Media? Definition, Types, and Examples

As marketing continues to evolve, the concept of paid media has become increasingly important for brands looking to grow their online presence. Paid media allows brands to utilize their organic content strategies to reach audiences far beyond their current following. 

With algorithmic changes and organic reach declining year over year on social platforms, brands are implementing an organic and paid social media strategy to achieve their business goals. 

In this blog, we’ll explore what paid media is, the different types of paid media, why it’s essential for your brand, and firsthand examples of our work with clients. 


But First, What is Paid Media?

Paid Media is another way to advertise your brand on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Youtube, and Snapchat. It is when brands pay to appear in front of specific audiences by boosting organic content or designing non-public content for their campaign goals. In other words, brands can pay to display their ads to a highly targeted audience, increasing their chances of generating leads or driving sales.

The purpose of the organic strategy is to generate content that connects authentically with your audience with the hope of attracting new customers. Paid media is the best way for brands to target new audiences with the end goal of converting them into customers.  

These are some powerful paid media capabilities that businesses can use to hit their goals: 

  • Detailed targeting capabilities that can narrow in on specific interests and tastes, to reach new audiences that are similar to their organic following. 
  • Optimizing content and media to align with specific business goals such as conversions, leads, video views, awareness or engagement.
  • Retargeting people who have engaged or viewed content with the purpose of converting them into customers.


The Different Types of Paid Media

By utilizing paid media and sponsoring your content, you’re able to reach audiences who may not have discovered your brand otherwise. However, in order to do this you must understand the different types of paid media as it is critical to the success of your efforts. 

We’ll walk you through earned, owned, and paid media and how each can help your overall business goals.

what is paid media diagram
Earned Media

Earned media is the exposure or media coverage that a brand receives without paying for it directly. This can be through word of mouth, SEO efforts, customer reviews, and even positive mentions in press coverage. It is often seen as more credible and trustworthy than other types of media because it comes from a third-party source. 

Owned Media

Owned media refers to content and media that a company or brand creates and controls. This can include a company’s website, blog, social media platforms, email newsletters, and other owned channels. The content created for owned media typically focuses on building brand awareness, educating customers, and promoting products or services. 

Paid Media

Paid media refers to advertising or promotional content that a company or brand pays for directly. This can include online ads, print ads, radio or TV commercials, influencer sponsorships, and other paid channels. Paid media is often used to reach a wider audience, promote a specific product or service, or drive conversions.

Paid Media Examples

At STN Digital, we have been at the forefront of driving unparalleled success for our clients through the use of cutting-edge paid media strategies. Take a look at some of our favorite paid media success stories!

Ready to start building your own successful paid media strategy? Reach out to our team today and let us help you achieve your marketing goals!


Case 1: On Her Turf 
  • Our paid media efforts reached over 1.1M unique users, growing their social media following at a $0.15 cost-per-follow on TikTok. This cost-per-follow was 97% below our historical benchmark. On Instagram, 41% of new followers were directly from paid media efforts at a cost-per-follow 37% below benchmarks.
Case 2: Wave FC 
Wave FC Paid Media case study
  • Utilizing Paid Media for Wave FC was a huge driver for the brand as they were new to the San Diego Sports scene. The paid campaign garnered 6M impressions and reached over 60% of the San Diego audience with a 50% higher Facebook and Instagram VVR relative to. industry standards.
  • The paid media campaign received 1.5x return on ad spend. Through audience and creative testing, as well as optimization measures, we were able to reduce the conversion cost by 17%. 
  • Paid Media positioned and established the new Wave FC team in San Diego and helped them achieve a sell-out crowd in their opening game at Snapdragon Stadium, setting an NWSL attendance record.
Case 3: SDSU
  •  With a two-phase strategic approach, the goal was to generate awareness and ticket sales for the inaugural season at Snapdragon Stadium.
  • Our paid media campaign resulted in a 13x return on ad spend, 5.14M impressions while reaching nearly 45% of the available San Diego audience, and reducing CPM costs by almost 50% during our Phase 2 Awareness campaign. CPM stands for “Cost Per Mille,” which is the cost an advertiser pays for every thousand impressions of an ad. 
  • During phase 2 of the campaign, we successfully beat our CPA goals by 41% (this number includes Google Search and Facebook). CPA stands for “Cost Per Action,” which is the cost an advertiser pays for each desired action taken by a user, such as a click, form submission, or purchase.


Paid media is the ultimate weapon for brands to boost their online visibility and attract their ideal customers. As organic reach on social media platforms continues to decline, paid media can help brands target their audience and increase their chances of driving sales and generating leads. If you’re looking to achieve a dominant presence in your market, paid media is an essential strategy for your brand.

Let's Huddle

Get in touch! We can't wait to meet you.