Happy Christmas Slugger!

The donation button is back again. Slugger would not be here if it were not for its readers. My colleagues at River Path have done a sterling job of keeping us afloat in the stormiest technical waters. And the Big Blog Company has pulled us out of that big September hole again. But without your generous support we would not have been able to make crucial technical changes to keep old Slugger afloat.

So: if you have enjoyed us; are feeling warm and generous on a surfeit of Christmas goodwill; or maybe you just feel we’ve been generous with some half decent research/thinking all year – then bang a little something in through the donation button!Considering the fact that we have a zero budget, for anything never mind marketing, we’ve done okay. According to Technorati we have a grand total of 388 sites linking into us. Most of these do not send us traffic every day, but for many Slugger is their first call on the web to find out what’s happening when Northern Ireland hits the global headlines.

Now at the end of the year we are averaging about 35,000 unique visitors a month, though we drew something close to 64,000 in September, courtesy mostly of an outstanding piece of Irish Times writing by Newton Emerson. After a shakey restart with the new software, we are beginning to cycle major numbers of comments. And in recent weeks the exchange has been increasingly both robust and intellectually sound.

We have a big team of bloggers now. Some blog regularly (and almost as obsessively as myself), others occasionally when they can. We’re even lucky enough to have a new Gael blogger on the team. We even have some new talent waiting in the wings to take the strain from some of our old timers should they feel the need to take Slugger Alumnus status.

Big stories early in the year was the gripping story of the Northern Bank robbery and the controversy following the murder of Robert McCartney, which reach a crescendo on the 17th March in Washington.

To much praise and with much enjoyment we brought you another Slugger Live! production during the last weeks of the Westminster and Council elections. And we had interviews and up close reports of some of the leading players – though Ian Paisley managed to completely wrong foot me on election day itself – not for the first or last time, methinks.

Through the year we’ve had mentions in Esquire, the Irish News, the Guardian, the Belfast Telegraph, The Newsletter, and several in Daily Ireland. The Irish Times have promised me faithfully that a piece on the significance of blogging to journalism is slated for the holiday period.

From my own point of view what I appreciate most on Slugger, is the conversation. And not just from our many commenters. When we started in 2002, there were probably no more than a dozen decent bloggers about the place north or south, and only two or three or those were focused on politics. Most of Slugger’s cohorts were in Britain and the US, some of whom have gone on to fry some very big fish.

But with a growing band of high quality thinking bloggers in Ireland coming on stream each month the conversations have become more local, and the possiblities for creating greater collective focus on the real politics of our own back yards increase. I hope we can stay in business sufficiently to continue to raise our standards and to broaden the scope of what we do.

If you’ve enjoyed the ride, don’t forget Slugger this Christmas. And help us plan for yet another tumultuous new year!

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