Today’s Indie Authors Are Media Owners

by | Dec 14, 2016

Have you ever thought about the fact that you’re a media owner? It’s a weird thought, isn’t it?

Yet, it’s probably true. Yeah, probably.

Why the modifier? Well, not every author has a self-hosted blog and website. But if you have both, guess what? You’re definitely a media owner.

I hadn’t really given this much thought until I read a new book titled Mastering the New Media Landscape: Embrace the Micromedia Mindset by Barbara Cave Hendricks and Rusty Shelton.

In the book, the authors discuss the three types of media we encounter whenever we tread online:

  1. Rented media
  2. Owned media
  3. Earned media

Rented Media

You should avoid some types of rented media. I know that some Blogger fans won’t agree with me, but it’s better to have your own website and a self-hosted blog. (A self-hosted blog is one that you own and place on your website.)

When you use a blogging platform such as Blogger or, you’re renting space on the internet, even if you don’t pay for it. You don’t own the space, and Blogger or can change the format any time they want, impacting your platform and possibly your brand.

There are other forms of rented media too.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • Instagram
  • Snapchat
  • Medium, etc.

are rented forms of media.

  • You don’t own them either.
  • You don’t have control over their algorithms.
  • They can change their appearances at any moment.

Yet you need to use some of them.

To succeed on social media, follow and watch your idols.

  • How do they use Twitter or Facebook?
  • What do they post?
  • How do they interact with their followers?

You’ll probably discover that to excel on social media you need to engage with your followers, and your content needs to be entertaining, educational, and just as important, it must be objective.

Remember, you own media now. You don’t want to comment on elections, politics, or controversial issues. Your followers deserve from you what you expect from your morning newspaper: objectivity. You don’t want to know how your local and national reporters voted, do you? Well, guess what? Your followers don’t want you to lose your objectivity either.

If you’re on Twitter and LinkedIn and have a Facebook author page, those are business interests. You’re on those platforms to:

  • represent your brand
  • grow your brand
  • engage with readers
  • and sell books

You know how you can lose readers? Taking a side they don’t believe in.

Think about it? Do you know how Joel Friedlander voted in November? Or whether he’s a Republican, Democrat, Independent, or a Green Party member? Of course not. He wouldn’t tarnish his brand with political meanderings and you shouldn’t either. The same is true for Jane Friedman and Dan Blank. They stick to the business at hand and in doing so, they respect their readers and don’t cause readers to feel betrayed.

It’s important to remember that social media as rented media isn’t bad; in fact, it’s important in getting the word out about your books, services, and blog posts.

Owned Media

When you have a website, a self-hosted blog, and an email list, you’re in great shape. You’re in control, and you’re officially a media owner.

Cruz and Hendricks go on to say,

Understanding and growing owned media is, in our minds, the crux of the new media landscape … Growing an audience that you own gives you leverage when you have a story to tell, a product to sell, or a message that the world needs to hear. It also gives you the ability to shine a spotlight on others who don’t yet have a platform but could benefit your audience.

In other words, owning media not only can benefit you, it can benefit followers you have who are just starting out.

As a media owner:

  • You get to determine what you want to say in your blog posts and on your about page.
  • You can change your website’s design anytime you’d like.
  • You can hire an SEO expert, learn how to improve your search engine optimization on your own, fire a webmaster and hire a new one.

What happens on your blog and your website is up to you and you alone. You own the site and have complete control over it.

Earned Media

Earned media isn’t any more important than rented or owned media. I see earned media as a gift. It will arrive in the form of a book review from Jane Friedman, a tweet from Joanna Penn praising your book or an interview on Facebook Live with Joel Friedlander in which he compliments some aspect of your book or business. Rising to the status of one of the top ten blogs and winning one of those golden decals from Writer’s Digest is another form of earned media.

Earned media doesn’t arrive easily. You have to work at writing a great blog, building a strong business, or producing great results in your business. Earned media often comes after years of working in your niche and publishing books. It’s called earned media because you’ve worked hard and you’ve earned the trust and respect and kudos that others bestow on you.

Putting It All Together

While owned media is critical as a media owner, the authors say,

… in this new environment … utilizing all three kinds of media is a must for a fully integrated strategy.

In my view, you start with owned media. As you write your book, you build your website, start your blog. Then either simultaneously or as soon as you have a website and blog, you turn to social media, a form of rented media.

Determining which platforms you use will depend on who your readers are. The authors of romance and young adult novels will likely have different audiences, and therefore, use various social media platforms. To decide which rented media is right for you, review the newest Pew Research Center’s Social Media Update 2016.

While Facebook is the most popular social media network, will you find your readers there? Look at the demographic studies by Pew and study which age groups and genders dominate on which social media venues. Then look at your reader demographics and determine which rented media sites you need to use.

Over time, earned media will come your way. It might come in the form of an Amazon review by Stephen King or an award for your blog. However it arrives, celebrate it but remember that all three forms of media are equally important.

How does it feel to be a media owner?

Photo: Link contains my affiliate code.

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  1. Skipper Hammond

    I do want to know how journalists I read voted. I want to know who pays the publishers of the newspapers, radio and TV networks they work for. And I want my readers to know where I stand. What does “brand” mean if it doesn’t include a writer’s values?

    • Frances Caballo

      Skipper: I understand how you feel. I separate journalism and the business of journalism from that of indie authors. When I look at Joanna Penn, for example, I think of an author who is upbeat, inclusive, and helpful to authors still finding their way. That’s her brand and she demonstrates it well in everything she does. I don’t really care how she votes in England. However, when it comes to journalism, which is supposed to be an objective institution, then it’s important to know that PG&E owns NBC, for example. I want to know who supports the radio stations I listen to. If I were to watch TV, which I don’t, then I’d want to know who backed the stations I watched financially as well. But is it important for readers to know whether I voted for Clinton or Trump? No, it isn’t. I understand that you don’t agree and I respect you for voicing your opinion here. I just can’t be swayed from my stance.

  2. Bill Smith

    Totally disagree with the comment to avoid political commentary. This goes back to the “dance, monkey, dance” theory of entertainers, that they should shut up and perform on command to please whoever wields the biggest stick.

    I remember hearing a conservative friend of mine once comment that he wished that John Grisham would shut up about politics and just write books for him to enjoy. Sorry, you love my creations, who I am is part of the package. Don’t like my opinions, don’t read me.

    We see that backlash on both sides of the aisle, from conservatives boycotting liberals to liberals boycotting conservatives (Orson Scott Card comes to mind) to music fans boycotting Nickelback for sucking.

    Dissent and commentary is every person’s inalienable right and no one should be lectured to shut up and keep dancing.

    On the other hand, media owners need to realize that they have a choice as to whether and how to exercise their free speech … and that the consequences of exercising their free speech can mean that some fans and customers will choose to no longer support you for your opinions. But that is a choice you can make and have to consider — to say “Don’t do it” is insulting to every creator.

    • Frances Caballo

      Bill: I thank you for joining the conversation. I have to reiterate my belief that I don’t believe that authors should delve into controversial political expression. They can if they want to, of course. But to do so would interfere with the brand they are attempting to build.

  3. Grant Higgins

    Frances, thanks for your comments about media ownership. The “owned” category was a twist I hadn’t really thought about in the same way. Thanks. Love getting new thoughts to expand my perspective. Thanks for a well presented treatment of the topic. Especially liked the link to the Pew Research data.

    • Grant Higgins

      (Correction) Sorry, I meant “earned”.

      • Frances Caballo

        Grant: Yes, earned is a new term for me as well!



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