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  The Newsnet Scotland appeal ended at midnight on Hogmanay and although we fell short of our ambitious target of £40,000, our eventual total of £13,801 was still impressive.
 
Before we go any further we would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who donated to the appeal, and also thank everyone who has regularly donated to the site throughout the year.

We are currently arranging despatch of items for those people who selected crowdsourcing perks and hope to have items to everyone by mid-January.

As well as the funds generated by our crowdfunding appeal, Newsnet Scotland has a regular income stream through donations and advertising revenue through our Google ads.  This means that Newsnet Scotland is now on a very firm financial footing as we move into 2014.

Some of the money raised will be used in order to further promote Newsnet Scotland.  Already we are looking at how best to increase readership and further promote the site.

We ended the year with 117,346 unique visitors for the month of December, the ninth successive month which broke the 100,000 total for unique visitors.  December also saw over 25,000 people read our most popular article.

Next week will see Lesley Riddoch’s first article as a regular columnist for Newsnet Scotland.  Arguably Scotland’s most respected journalist and broadcaster, Lesley brings a unique understanding of Nordic culture to the independence debate.

As the biggest non-traditional online daily news outlet in Scotland, Newsnet Scotland now has an opportunity to bring the independence debate to a sizeable audience.  A readership of one hundred and twenty five thousand unique visitors per month - and rising - is quite an audience.  It is also one that neither side in the independence debate can afford to ignore.

Today we contacted the official campaigns, Better Together and Yes Scotland, with a proposal.  Our provisional idea is for both sides to set a series of questions for the other, on any issue related to the independence debate, and for the other to respond.

We have pledged to publish, unedited, each of the questions together with the unedited answers.  Aside from some basic word count limits, each side will be allowed to ask - alternately - anything they wish in whatever manner they wish.

Our belief is that the independence debate is far too important to be controlled by the traditional media outlets.  We believe that both Yes Scotland and Better Together have an obligation to engage in debate and discussion whenever a significant opportunity to communicate to a large public audience presents itself.

We have given both sides a reasonable period of time to consider our request.  We will inform visitors to Newsnet Scotland of their response in due course.

As most people will be aware, Newsnet Scotland has tried to stress to visitors that the site is not a forum.  The limitations we place on online comments has caused understandable frustration amongst some visitors.

Today we can announce the creation of a new Newsnet Forum, called not surprisingly NewsnetForum, which will allow people to post commentary on any aspect of the independence debate.  Categories will include the referendum, Newsnet Scotland articles, the broadcast and print media and general politics.

There, people can debate, research, discuss and generally engage other posters in a more robust manner than would be deemed acceptable on Newsnet Scotland.  There’s no need to wait for a subject to appear, the beauty of the Newsnet Forum is that you have the ability to simply create a topic yourself.

The Cowdenbeath byelection, to be held on January 23rd, will be the first big political event of 2014 and the forum is the perfect place to get things up and running.

The Newsnet Forum is not a branch of Newsnet Scotland, but a separate entity entirely.  This means that usernames currently in use at Newsnet Scotland will not automatically be transferred over to the forum.

The site is currently live and usernames and accounts can now be set up.  Just go to http://www.newsnetforum.com [The www is important just now].

We are looking for volunteers to help moderate the new forum.  For those who value robust and instant online debate, then now is the time to step forward.

Once a username has been set up and you wish to volunteer as a moderator then simply notify us by posting a comment here or send us a message using our online forms.  We’ll then upgrade your forum account.

The festive break is all but over and we will very shortly be getting back to normal service.  However we would again remind visitors that Newsnet Scotland is a very real citizen journalism venture administered by ordinary people on a part time basis.

We have to rely on paid freelance writers in order to produce the daily news content that makes Newsnet Scotland unique amongst online citizen journalism sites.  This we have accepted as a necessity if quality and integrity is to be maintained – not everyone can write to the standards we require.

We do though need volunteer researchers and people capable of contacting organisations, bodies and politicians on our behalf in order to seek comment and quotes.  If you really want to make a positive impact on the independence debate, then please get in touch with us.

2014 has arrived and we at Newsnet Scotland are primed to meet the challenge.  We hope you are as well.

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