TBD D.C.-area news site not a steady riser in early Alexa stats. But let’s wait for the full story

image I’ve been rooting for TBD, the D.C.-area hyperlocal news site that some journalists regard as a savvy canary in the coal mine. Will frequent updates and a link-heavy neighborhood–by-neighborhood approach, tied in with local bloggers, be the future of metropolitan news? I really hope this experiment works, just as I wish success to other hyperlocals in the D.C. area and elsewhere.

So how is TBD doing, according to Alexa.com, which among other things measures sites by the “Percentage of global Internet users who visit”?

Well, following a debut on the morning of August 9, TBD would appear not to be enjoying a steady rise in traffic from world of mouth, if Alexa is on the mark. Alexa might be all wet. Alexa is not nearly as accurate as internal measurements based on counters embedded in Web pages. We’re a long way from the full story. And remember, too, the day-of-the-week factor to consider when analyzing traffic for a news-sports-weather-and-traffic site.  For comparison’s sake, the above Alexa chart also picks up stats for the Web side of the Washington City Paper, which needs a lot fewer visitors to turn a profit.

I’ll alert my TBD contacts and see if people there can share more meaningful data and comment on the Alexa stats. Do they have any sign that immediate word of mouth is kicking in despite the above chart? How do the stats compare with expectations? Can TBD provide traffic stats of its own, the more significant internal ones? Keep in mind that even most major sites get off to slow starts—and, again, the serious limitations of Alexa, which is far from scientific.

imageWhatever the numbers, my theory is that TBD can grow traffic by being less DC-centric and offering more coverage of, say, the Washington suburbs, where, not so coincidentally, I live (Alexandria). I still wonder if TBD and allied operations have enough staffers to do the job right, even with a link-heavy approach.

Update: 9:39 p.m.: Speaking of geography, I don’t see a single Virginia story at the top of the TBD home page unless you count the weather update—even though I’ve been told that all TBD readers see the same main stories at the top. Doesn’t Virginia exist, too? Within Virginia, the most populated county is Fairfax and within the county, schools are topic #1 or close to it. But a quick and hardly infallible search of Google Blogs doesn’t exactly turn up an abundance of school-focused bloggers in Fairfax County. Maybe instead of building TBD’s blog network around the existing supply and distribution of bloggers in the D.C. area, TBD should train new bloggers from the ‘burbs who are knowledgeable about key topics like schools.I’ve heard of a former ABC producer in Reston who’s a PTA mom fixated on local test scores. Talk about a potential blogger for TBD or other sites wanting to do justice to the Fairfax County public schools! This is how to boost TBD’s numbers.

Update, 10:08: The TBD iPhone app is in the App Store.

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David Rothman

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