Happy Birthday, A News Cafe.com – Beyond the 7-Year Itch

About 2,604 of you were there with me from the very start of this website. To you 2,604, please bear with me as I repeat this story of A News Cafe.com’s birth for the tens of thousands who’ve not heard this before.

The story begins on Oct. 24, 2007, when I experienced a rather sudden, involuntary departure from my beloved newspaper job. More than 140 readers picketed the newspaper in protest, but of course, that didn’t change a thing.

Four days later, after my son Joseph Domke in the Czech Republic called and talked with me on the phone, he was alarmed to hear I hadn’t changed out of my pajamas all week and had embraced wine as a substitute for all major food groups. That very day he created a “baby blog” called “Food for Thought” – later to be known as A News Cafe.com.

The “little blog” was a way for me to continue my journalism career in this one-newspaper town – or at least pretend as if I were continuing my career.  I mean, where does one start with something like that? Friends Jim and Darcie Gore jumped in to help with the programming and support side. I contacted a few friends, who owned businesses, and they agreed to advertise on my puny blog. At the time, it was purely pity advertising, I’m sure.

Sometimes I have issues with timing, because it turns out we started this website just a few days before the recession hit.

Even so, by the end of that year, the site was averaging about 2,604 unique visitors a month. I was ecstatic. Imagine that: 2,604 unique IP addresses, many with multiple users, were logging onto our site each month!

Life was good. I bounced back from being fired and landed on top of the world, where I wrote from my dream house perched atop a gorgeous ridge with views of  deer, coyotes, rolling hillsides and heaven. Once again, I had a purpose.

The site continued to gain more readers and advertisers. As the site provided more content, I gathered up some of the newspaper’s former refugees to help with the site.

Sometimes I have issues with judging character, because it turns out I inadvertently invited one wily fox into our little hen house.

Feathers flew. What a bloody mess.

I won’t go into the ugly details here (that’s why God invented hyperlinks), but by the time the dust had settled I’d I lost (dumped) two business partners, one of whom was my husband/business manager.

Two nice things I will say about him. He made lovely furniture, and he was a decent business manager. Remember how he used to write those chatty quarterly reports and business updates? I do miss that, though I never did resume that duty. I guess that’s what I’m doing today, in part.

I changed my name, though there isn’t a week that goes by that someone doesn’t call me by my previous name. And, damn it, I respond. In all truthfulness, if you were to wake me up at 3 a.m. and ask my last name, I’d not say Chamberlain. (Side note for women. If you marry, and if you MUST take his name, keep your birth name for business. Not that your marriage will be among the 49 percent that crash and burn, but you know, just in case.) 

Honestly, in those early lifequake months, I just wanted to abandon the whole site and run away. I’ll tell you a secret: There was a long period of time when I’d go to a party or any place attended by clumps of business people, and after the small talk I’d ask total strangers if they wanted to buy a website.

Nothing against you. I loved you, and I felt so grateful to you for sticking with me, in sickness and in health. It’s just that there was so much pain associated with the website that it felt like hot wax on my heart.  I wanted no part of it. My heart seemed hopelessly scarred and hardened toward my little website love child.

I couldn’t find a buyer, so I stuck with the site, and gradually, I fell back in love with A News Cafe.com. Wonder of wonders, our numbers continued to grow, in advertisers, readers and content. By the end of 2011, we averaged 40,507 unique visitors each month.

Along the way, we went through about a dozen sales people. I finally gave up trying to find the perfect sales rep and appointed myself the one-woman sales team. Is sales my thing? Not really. Am I doing OK? Apparently.

By the end of 2012, we averaged 42,769 monthly readers. And in 2013 we had 45,073 unique monthly visitors. That equals about half of Redding’s population, don’t you know.

To my relief and awe, A News Cafe.com didn’t just survive, but it thrived beyond the deadly seven-year itch. The site stretched and grew and blossomed … despite a recession, a dissolution of a three-way partnership and the obliteration of my marriage to one of my business partners.

Here we are approaching 2015, and I am proud to announce that A News Cafe.com has averaged 51,587 unique monthly readers. Many months this year have seen more than 60,000 unique visitors.

Although I feel delighted and humbled by this success, really, I’m not surprised.

Dear reader, you are the reason for A News Cafe.com’s success. Without you and your increasing numbers of new, equally smart and civilized readers, businesses wouldn’t advertise. Some of you even go the extra mile, and send donations to help ensure A News Cafe.com’s financial health. Thank you all!

Dear advertisers – big and small – you are the reason for A News Cafe.com’s success. Without your financial support, we couldn’t pay gifted writers, journalists, photographers, a webmaster, and yes, occasionally even a cartoonist. Thank you all!

Dear community contributors, you are the reason for A News Cafe.com’s success. Without your talent, and expressions of boundless passion, information and expertise, A News Cafe.com would be a less-lively site, void of local personality, color, commentary and character. Thank you all!

You early 2,604 readers, the ones who were here in the beginning, do you remember the day one commenter’s typo called this website a “we site”? That term fit then, and now, seven years later, it still fits. A News Cafe.com is more of a “we site” than ever.

Seven years ago, I never in my wildest dreams (or nightmares) could have predicted what would unfold between 2007 and 2014.

We’re still standing. And look how far we’ve come. Although I have no clue what’s around the next bend, or into the coming months and years, I do know that I couldn’t ask for anyone better than you to join me on this journey.

Happy birthday, A News Cafe.com. Happy birthday to us!

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Chamberlain was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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