2023 Will Cement Paid Media as the Anti-Hero in the Marketing Equation

2023 Will Cement Paid Media as the Anti-Hero in the Marketing Equation


It’s a tale as old as time that paid media is seen as the silver bullet within marketing programs. It typically goes something like this:

A CFO agrees to invest $1 in marketing, and without a doubt expects at least $4 in return (ROI). Traditional measurement mindset puts up guardrails for most revenue marketers as they build a plan that ultimately aligns with a trackable and scalable forecast for their business. In the past, this has meant paid media.

And purely because of paid media’s perceived trackability, it has typically received the largest percentage of variable spend.

But it’s not really that simple.

Without getting into the attribution war (we can save that for a different day), we all know that the software-based attribution we’re basing our ROI commitments on is biased, flawed, and limited. And truthfully, buying behavior has shifted dramatically in the last 5 years with the rise of communities, social selling, peer networks, and of course, factors like privacy policies and ever-complex third-party algorithms.

Software-based attribution has not withstood the test of time. It actually hasn’t innovated at all in the last five years to account for buying behavior shifts.

Knowing all of this, and layering on the pressure all revenue marketers are feeling in this economic climate, means our hands are forced to identify a new path.

Gone are the days of relying solely on paid media for marketing success. My hypothesis is that people are going to start waking up to the fact that building an audience creates valuable optionality for your business, and this realization will give owned media its time to shine in 2023.

Marketers are awakening to the fact that transactional approaches yield limited results. The true power lies in forging genuine connections with your audience, and owned media is the conduit for this transformation.

Owned media allows businesses to take control of their narrative, engage directly with their audience, and build long-term relationships. It’s about creating content and experiences that resonate with your target audience, providing value, and establishing your brand as a trusted source of expertise.

But let’s not disregard the challenges that come with owned media. It requires a shift in mindset and a commitment to investing resources, time, and effort into audience development. It’s not a quick fix or an overnight success story. Building an audience takes strategic planning, consistent content creation, and nurturing interactions.

However, the payoff is worth it. Opportunities opened through owned media channels have the potential to deliver stronger ROI because they are acquired relationally, not transactionally. When customers feel a genuine connection with a brand, they are more likely to become loyal advocates, repeat customers, and influencers within their networks. This is the growth loop every marketer dreams of unlocking.

To make this move successfully, businesses must embrace the principles of audience-centric marketing. This means understanding your audience’s needs, preferences, and pain points, and tailoring your content and interactions accordingly. It’s about humanizing your brand and creating a sense of community beyond transactional exchanges.

To be clear, I’m not saying death to paid media. In all of this, let’s not forget that owned media is not a standalone solution. It should be integrated with other marketing channels and strategies to maximize its impact. Paid, rented, and owned media can work together harmoniously, with each channel complementing and reinforcing the others.

If you’ve made it this far, I assume that you’re either convinced about the importance of building an owned media engine for your brand, or eager to get to the end so you can raise all of your objections with me first-hand. Whichever the case, I appreciate your commitment to reading this far.

I believe in this so strongly because I’ve witnessed first-hand the power this mindset and strategy can have on a brand from qualified pipeline to revenue.

A few ways you can get started:

Create intentional, owned events for your audience

Events provide a unique opportunity to engage with your target demographic in a meaningful and memorable way. Take inspiration from Refine Labs, CEO Chris Walker’s previous series, Demand Gen Live, a live event that took place weekly on Tuesday nights. This event brought together industry experts, and practitioners to cover the state of demand gen.

This event started out with small quantities of registrants but quickly grew to hundreds of weekly recurring attendees. This series provided valuable content to a niche audience and was delivered consistently. The series ran for over 100 episodes and is still a primary differentiator for the Refine Labs brand today.

By hosting your own events, whether virtual or in-person, you can position your brand as a thought leader, foster authentic connections with your audience, and provide valuable insights and experiences that differentiate you from the competition.

Start producing weekly content and turn it into a podcast series

Take a brand like Profitwell for instance, now acquired by Paddle, who started with a content strategy that consisted of one weekly post. That weekly post gained traction and built a beloved audience that supported and spoke highly of the brand. That earned momentum and now led Profitwell to launch a full-blown media company with an audience network and several recurring series like Pricing Page Teardown.

Convert your audience from rented to owned by offering a high-value newsletter subscription

Become the Morning Brew for your niche or industry. Craft a compelling newsletter that provides exclusive insights, industry updates, expert advice, and valuable resources tailored to your audience’s needs and interests. This newsletter offers a subscription opt-in that will help shift your audience from rented to owned, and it also step-changes the control you have over your distribution. (Read: You’ll no longer be at the whim of the algorithm to get your content in front of your audience.)


So, I’m cementing that 2023 will be the year when owned media emerges as a disruptive force in marketing. As the limitations of traditional attribution models become increasingly apparent, marketers are already realizing the value of building an audience and fostering genuine connections. By embracing owned media and its power to create valuable optionality for businesses, marketers can navigate this evolving landscape. It’s time to invest in the audience, nurture relationships, and let owned media take its rightful place in your marketing equation.

Time to get building!


Kaylee Edmondson | About the Author

VP of Revenue R&D, Refine Labs

Kaylee is the VP of Revenue R&D at Refine Labs, a demand gen firm for high-growth B2B SaaS companies. She’s also an advisor, an operator, and investor. Prior to leading marketing for Refine Labs, Kaylee led demand gen for brightwheel, Chili Piper, and Campaign Monitor.You can follow her here.


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