By Tyler Allen Explore Big Sky Distribution Director/Associate Editor

Success in business is predicated on the ability to grow, adapt and innovate. Embracing that model, the Outlaw Partners know that distribution of our newspaper, Explore Big Sky, is essential to both our readers and advertisers.

For 2014, we’re rolling out an expansion: We’ll direct mail the paper to all of our advertisers’ contacts, free of charge.

The days of a paperboy chucking the news through your living room window or onto your rooftop are over.

We believe inventive, sophisticated strategies like these make our paper successful – that and great content, design and advertising. As newspapers around the world lose money and readership to online sources, our print media has grown steadily.

EBS is now the most widely distributed Montana paper. We have 100 drop points in Big Sky, 150 in Bozeman, 30 in West Yellowstone, and another 50 around southwest Montana. We also mail to readers nationwide and internationally.

“Launching our business during the recession has made us stronger than ever as the economy rebounds,” said Eric Ladd, Outlaw Partners CEO and EBS publisher. “We’re not resting on our laurels – we’re making big changes. We realized this is a game of numbers, and that means the more people you get to see your media, the better.”

Explore Big Sky is currently mailed to 38 states

Even with this broad reach, our editorial attention remains laser-focused on the local coverage that has built a devoted readership in our stomping grounds. Southwest Montana is experiencing explosive growth, and EBS is here to document and scrutinize the changes happening in this corner of the world.

“It’s an economic hub that’s witnessing more new business startups than anywhere else in the country,” said Explore Big Sky Senior Editor Joseph T. O’Connor, adding that EBS also covers Yellowstone National Park, which sees more than 3 million annual visitors, as well as Big Sky Resort, the largest ski resort in the country.

“Our advertisers enable us to write strong, accurate content and are essential to our operation,” O’Connor said, explaining that their support allows us to continually push the editorial content to higher levels of journalistic integrity.

Because EBS is free for readers, it is therefore completely supported by advertiser dollars, notes E.J. Daws, Outlaw Partners’ Director of Sales.

“Because of this, we do everything we can to continue to improve our distribution numbers and strategy,” Daws said. “We try to get the publications in front of an audience most likely to purchase goods and services that are advertised in our pages.”

Advertising has three pervading questions: Does marketing work? Is it reaching consumers? What is the investment return in marketing?

Outlaw’s distribution strategy shows our advertisers that their investment pays dividends. Mailing to the contacts of each business that advertises with us exponentially increases the exposure each advertisement receives.

“I believe in targeted marketing versus broadcast marketing,” said Colin Mathews, owner of Creighton Block Gallery in Big Sky and a long-time advertiser with EBS. “The newspaper is a superb, targeted marketing vehicle.”

Mathews said he would like anyone who has come to his gallery to receive the paper. “There is a high likelihood those people will come back to Big Sky, especially if they’re following [EBS], and a high likelihood they’ll come back to my gallery.”

We believe a newspaper is greater than the sum of its parts – while our readers can enjoy specific stories on explorebigsky.com, they also appreciate the layout of each printed issue, as it coalesces written content, photographs, infographics, event calendars and advertisements into an elegant full color publication.

Amazon.com founder Jeffrey P. Bezos articulated the significance of a neatly packaged news source soon after he shocked the media industry by purchasing the struggling Washington Post last fall. The Post pours vast resources into investigative journalism, Bezos noted, only to have other websites summarize its hard-hitting articles and offer them for free, according to a September 2013 article for forbes.com by Jeff Bercovici.

“To short-circuit that dynamic,” Bercovici wrote, “Bezos told newsroom staffers, the Post needs to become a ‘daily ritual bundle’ whose value is tied to its consistency and convenience, not just the sum of its news. ‘People will buy a package,’ Bezos said. ‘They won’t pay for a story.’”

We don’t charge for our publication, but the message is the same. Consumers find value in a quality product. If it’s valuable to consumers, our advertisers want to be a part of the package. Now they can mail that package to the people they would most like to have unwrap it.