Earned vs Paid Media

The two most popular forms of business development are paid media – advertising – and earned media – PR. Here’s an ROI comparison of commercials and PR, using San Antonio, Texas, as an example market.


According to Golden State Media Concepts, the average TV commercial in San Antonio ranges from $500 to $3,000 for only 30 seconds of air time.

A PR firm got a business a two-minute segments in the 10 p.m. newscast – the most expensive advertising program of the day. The business would have needed to purchase four commercials for that equivalent airtime under advertising standards. At the current market rate, this marketing initiative would have cost roughly $12,000 as an advertising buy.

That equation doesn’t even include the influential factor of reaching the community through the news at a time when consumers are paying attention. It also doesn’t factor in the diminishing cost of a news segment over time. Most TV stories remain on the news website long after the PR campaign is over, effectively lowering the cost of the media campaign over time. In contrast, a commercial only runs once and is never placed on the web without an additional cost.

That PR campaign can led to media placements in a magazine and on a ratio station. According to Golden State Media Concepts, local San Antonio radio station, KYKX, charges $250 – $490 for a 30-second radio ad spot during the morning drive time.

All-in-all, good earned media campaigns lead to more exposure for your business. But the key word here is good. Not all PR firms deliver the same media placements. That’s why it is your job to research your PR firm before you hire them to run your earned media campaign.