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Marketing guru breaks down native content

Courtney Matthews of AIM’s Outdoor Group has the inside scoop on how to develop a successful piece and the brands doing it well.

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Courtney Matthews has been creating marketing concepts for outdoor brands since 1994. She’s done stints at media outlets like BACKPACKER and Bicycling magazines, as well as at big brands like The North Face and Sierra Designs.

Recently joining the Active Interest Media team as Marketing and Business Development Director of the Outdoor Group (which includes SNEWS as well as BACKPACKER, Climbing, National Parks Trips), Matthews is a niche-marketing pro and a whiz for active audiences with a passion. Her top priority is helping brands define and communicate their authentic messages through execute advertising partnerships. 

Courtney Matthews and friends backpacking in the 90s
Circa 1995. The North Face product development team and marketing team hit the trail. From left to right: John Stetz, Luke Pezzimenti, Eric Rice, Courtney Matthews, Andy Burgess, Jamie Tipton, Dana Donley Morton, and Jon Schleuning.  Courtesy

From her home office in Pennsylvania, she shared with us her expertise that is based on her eclectic yet focused marketing experience with outdoor audiences.

SNEWS: Content marketing has evolved so much in recent years, from somewhat of a dirty word (i.e. advertorial) to a powerful marketing tool for brands who have good story to tell. What types of brands should be thinking about ways to invest in creative content marketing projects?

CM: I think all the brands should. Developing a successful piece of native content starts with a consumer-facing topic, which is then supported with relevant examples of the sponsor’s products. It is true educational and service journalism first with a natural integration of brand-specific content. It’s a way to integrate a brand’s message with agnostic content. All brands should explore how it works for them. It’s powerful because it places a brand’s message right alongside trusted information from a trusted source – that’s the beauty of it.

The sweet spot for native content is when ads are authenticated by a trusted publication. We know that clients invest money in their own content, but the difference here is that the brand is partnering with a trusted source, such as SNEWS or BACKPACKER or another content provider, to produce the content, leveraging a trusted voice with a targeted, engaged audience.

SNEWS: Can you give us some examples of brands that have done really well with content marketing?

CM: The category that we get the most traction has been in hard goods, and we get the most requests from the travel industry. Some great examples are Farm to Feet, Trayvax, Casio, West Virginia Blogger campaign, Downtek, and La Sportiva

SNEWS: As a marketing specialist, what are your biggest challenges and opportunities in this ever-changing time of media?

CM: Very literally, challenges are the other side of an opportunity. I think that with the way media is changing, it’s exciting but it’s also a challenge to keep up and evolve without forgetting the fundamentals, such as surrounding yourself with people who are experts in a particular field. Technology is one example. It’s now a daily learning experience, but the benefit is that it’s enhancing communication and bringing departments together.

I always love to brainstorm with brands on how we can collaborate on content. Shoot me an email at and let’s talk!