When the Missoula Current launched in December 2015, it did so with a rudimentary webpage built on a shoestring budget.

That initial offering was sparse at best, and it proved to be the first of several iterations that would evolve over a period of months into the webpage you've come to know.

At least as of yesterday.

Welcome to the new Missoula Current.

Thanks to broad community support and a growing readership, we took the plunge in partnership with Cedar Mountain Software – a Missoula company – to design and launch a new and enhanced webpage offering a greater variety of stories, images and video.

We've also improved the site's performance on mobile devices.

The new platform serves as a portal into western Montana's newest and fastest-growing media company, one that prides itself on “keeping it local” while retaining a focus on the big picture.

We've also stayed true to our pledge of remaining free to all readers – no paywalls, no surveys and no takeover ads. How is this possible? The answer is simple. It's because of you.

We know that readers have more options than ever when it comes to news and information, and I'm delighted each day by the feedback and support our readers have shown, knowing they can trust us to be accurate, fair and honest.

Last month – in what marked a new Missoula Current milestone – more than 60,000 unique readers logged on for a combined 104,000 pageviews. What's more, 29 new readers pledged their support with a voluntary $5 monthly donation, a move that enables us to contract more reporters to cover more news.

The more support we receive, the more we'll be able to bring to the readers.

When I quit my “day job” with the Missoulian that December to start the Missoula Current, I was hopeful but naive. I knew little about business and even less about growing a media company. I knew how to write, report and take “good-enough” photos, and that was about it.

Jump forward 18 months and the learning curve hasn't flattened out, but we're finding our way through the shifting landscape of local media. I say we because that's what this has become, growing over time into a true community effort.

Our team currently includes veteran reporters Sherry Devlin and Ed Kemmick (of Last Best News), our “publisher” Lisa Vachio, our columnists and our new freelance reporter, Renata Birkenbuel. Later this month, we'll welcome intern Katy Spence, a University of Montana journalism graduate student, for the summer.

Granted, the team is still small – I wish it were larger – but we like our underdog role and the prospect of climbing the mountain.

Yet there is another part to this story and that's the local angle. While our state's traditional newspapers export jobs to foreign countries and send their revenue back to Midwestern executives and national stockholders – and while they buy up smaller competitors – we keep everything here in Montana (with the exception of our annual web domain fee).

And that brings me back to our local partnership with Cedar Mountain Software and our new webpage. Over the past two months, the folks at Cedar Mountain have been quietly building our new digital platform. In the world of digital journalism, our web presence is akin to the morning newspaper in that it must reflect the best of what we can do.

I'm pleased with our new webpage and believe it reflects our quality and desire to remain a local news leader. Combined with our daily email publication of Montana Today and our Missoula Business Weekly, the new platform offers new ways to display the day's top content, from multimedia to the free news our readers have come to count on.

What's more, the site is clean and easy to navigate. You won't find the “click bait” used by some news outlets to artificially drive up pageviews, and you'll never be blocked for reading too much content without paying that pesky monthly bill.

With your continued support, we'll continue moving the needle while staying true to our founding principles. You've all helped prove that it's possible to build a truly local news organization, independent of stockholder meddling and corporate influence.

In exchange, we pledge to keep it local and stay fair and balanced in our coverage. We also pledge to continue building the community partnerships that have led to our success and best serve the readers of Missoula and Montana.

Martin Kidston is a Marine Corps veteran, cat owner and University of Montana graduate. For more than 17 years, he worked at several newspapers, including the Billings Gazette, where he ran the Wyoming bureau, and the Missoulian, where he covered local government and higher education. He founded the Missoula Current in 2015.