T-Squared: Lucky '13

It shouldn't come as a surprise — we've been saying it for months — but 2013 was The Texas Tribune's best year ever. Doesn't it stand to reason? If it was this good for Texas politics and policy news (four words: Ted Cruz Wendy Davis), then it had to have been fantastic for the lucky ducks who got to report on it.

By almost every measure, all of us on Team Trib not only met but wildly exceeded our ambitious goals for our fourth full year in operation. Deeper reporting. Richer content across a growing number of platforms. A more imaginative use of data. A more innovative deployment of technology. More breaking news. More long-term editorial projects. More media partnerships. A wider distribution of our journalism to outlets traditional and not. A more strategic use of social media. More fans. More followers. Bigger events in more places. And, yes, more money raised from old friends and new, from existing foundation supporters and new, from mainstay corporate sponsors and new. Around here we call that "sustainability." (I think we're finally getting the hang of this nonprofit, nonpartisan news org thing.)

Here are a few of the relevant numbers for the last 12 months.

We exceeded 11.5 million visits and 6 million unique visitors — up 14 and 6.7 percent, respectively, over non-Lege year 2012, and 20.8 and 18.1 percent over Lege-year 2011 — and logged more than 38.2 million page views.

Houston topped our annual list of the five cities generating the most unique visitors, followed closely by Austin, then Dallas, San Antonio and New York. Two more cities outside Texas — Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles — cracked the top 10 in uniques. The most visits and page views by city came from Austin, followed by Houston, Dallas and San Antonio. Among the states, Texas (duh) provided the overwhelming share of our traffic however you slice it. California was a distant second, followed by New York, Florida and Illinois.

Traffic from mobile devices — smartphones and tablets — represented 35 percent of our total this year, compared with 25 percent in 2012.

Facebook referrals counted for nearly 10 percent of our traffic. Twitter referrals were almost 6 percent. Our Facebook likes grew by 64 percent, while our Twitter followers grew by 122 percent. We attribute that in no small part to the abortion filibuster: In the space of 24 hours between June 25 and 26, we gained nearly 9,000 followers alone.

Speaking of the filibuster, the livestream and liveblog of that night's unfolding news attracted far and away the largest audience of any content we produced last year. Next in popularity was a Brandi Grissom story on an exoneree battling his ex-wife over his compensation from the state; Becca Aaronson's account of the Democrats' temporary victory in filibustering Senate Bill 5; Julián Aguilar's report on the proposed mock immigration raid on the University of Texas at Austin campus; and Aman Batheja's preview of President Obama's trip to Texas and tarmac meeting with Gov. Rick Perry.

Our database of government employee salaries was, again, the most heavily visited app of the year — with more than 18 million page views — followed by the Texas prison inmates database, our 83rd legislative session bill tracker, our interactive featuring CSCOPE lesson plans and our guide to the financial interests of elected officials.

Finally, fundraising. We make a big deal out of trumpeting these amounts because they prove the theory of the case: A viable nonprofit economic model exists to pay for serious journalism. We projected we would raise $4.85 million in 2013 and instead brought in more than $5.1 million (not counting our $1.5 million grant from the Knight Foundation). Among our blow-through-the-budget wins were membership (nearly $680,000 vs. a goal of $510,000), corporate underwriting ($1.166 million) and events ($1.131 million). We also ended the year with nearly $3 million in the bank. There's hope for the future in those numbers.

Thanks so much to all of you who gave generously, read loyally, attended enthusiastically, and enabled to us to do our hard and important work. Here's to an even better 2014!  

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.