Kinds of Earned Media on YouTube

There is a rough consensus among brands and media franchises about what earned media is and means. It is frequently grouped with PR and word-of-mouth marketing, and it generates a kind of traction that is great for building communities around campaigns. But, when it comes to finding and targeting specific examples of earned media, can you recognize any or all of it on YouTube? Depending on your products and audiences, the way earned media is described, tagged, organized and found on YouTube is different. And, in order to leverage it properly, you need to know where to look first.

Earned media manifests in three major ways on YouTube. Within those categories are all sorts of videos.

Wholly Original Earned Media

For every culture on YouTube there are different terms and categories for the earned media about the brands in that space. Beauty and Lifestyle have particularly strong and established cultures on the platform, so the earned media in that space has more unique language and visual styles than other verticals. Their language is so developed that sometimes brands won’t even know that people are talking about them without actually being on trend.


OOTW (outfits of the week)

Whats in my…

First Impressions

Take a look at our in depth guide, Beyond Reviews, for more categories of earned media affecting brands.

Re-mixed Earned Media

For media companies (film, tv, music, sports, etc.) this is a more likely form of earned media. These often appear as reviews, or in vids. For a more comprehensive look at fanvidding, what it means, and kinds of vids out there, check out ZEFR’s Taxonomy of Fanvids.





There is an equally diverse and deep well of earned media featuring intellectual property. Remix culture occasionally means that one video on YouTube is earned media for more than one rights holder. Sometimes there are remixes made with commercials but not nearly as frequently.

Re-uploaded Earned Media

Not all brands are aware of this, or count this as earned media. When brands come across a re-uploaded video they paid to make, sometimes they assume it falls into owned or paid media but it also counts as earned media. It is not the video itself that distinguishes its owned or earned media status but the channel that uploaded it. Official videos on official channels are Owned Media. Official videos running in advertising slots are paid media. Official videos on unofficial or fan channels are earned media. Re-uploads introduce content to the fans of the fans, rather than the fans of the brands, thus potentially reaching new audiences. While embedded here, there might not be anything out of the ordinary with these videos but it is the channel, not the video that makes this a kind of earned media.

Old/Historic Content

Promotional/Anticipatory Content

For media franchises, re-uploads might directly compete with their bottom line, but, lucky for them, copyright is on their side. Sometimes, the digital distribution rights for commercial use are in question, but, if the content is desirable enough, fans will bypass any thought of rights issues to upload it on their own.

Key Takeaway

For a brand to understand its viewership, it is necessary to know as much as possible about the fans driving the focus of their audience. The best way to accomplish this is to learn about the communities surrounding the brand, and the many different kinds of earned media they create.


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