earned media
n. Free media coverage, such as a news story or opinion piece.
In the world of campaigns, there is nothing better than earned media — free television and radio exposure — as opposed to paid media or costly advertisements.
—Beth Shuster, “Being an Incumbent Has Many Benefits,” The Los Angeles Times, April 07, 2001
1988 (earliest)
Satellite hookups and cable TV, which furnish saturation coverage of the campaigns, have made the search for the perfect line a near obsession. Campaigns spend — and often waste — thousands of dollars boiling down all of the issues into broad themes that can be used in both 'paid media' (political TV ads) and 'earned media' (which recently replaced 'free media' as the favored euphemism for news).
—Jonathan Alter & Howard Fineman, “The Search for the Perfect Sound-Bite,” Newsweek, January 18, 1988
Earned media used to be called free media, as the earliest citation makes clear.
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