Doni’s Life Remodel: A News Cafe.com is 10 Years Old!

A News Cafe.com is 10 years old! Cake by Sublime Bakery. Photo by Barbara Rice.

Many of you know this story, so bear with me as I share this with those who’ve not heard it lately. Like a mother who likes to retell the story of the day her child was born on his birthday, I always feel a bit sentimental about A News Cafe.com this time of year, when it came alive. But 2017 year is especially notable. A News Cafe.com is one decade old.

Ten years ago I was a newly fired journalist booted from my 10-year-old newspaper job at the start of the Great Recession in the fall of 2007. I was heartbroken and panicked, despite the fact that about 140 people picketed the paper in protest. I mean, the support was flattering, but it didn’t solve my problem: Where does a fired newspaper reporter find work in a one-newspaper town?

I lost my job on a Wednesday, and spent the next few days crying and drinking wine for dinner. Son Joe, then a 23-year-old newlywed living in the Czech Republic with his new Czech bride, spoke with me on the phone and suggested I go online.

I scoffed. I balked. I protested. Come on! I was a paper person.

As kids sometimes do, Joe ignored me. By Sunday he’d sent me a link to a blog. Just a little blog. All I had to do was click on it and write something.

Well, what the hell. Why not. Couldn’t hurt. So I wrote a few words. It felt cathartic.

By the end of our second day, my little blog had 2,700 unique visitors, a term in itself that was foreign to me at the time.

Eventually, my blog, a place I thought would contain recipes and stories about my life in Igo, turned into a news magazine, thanks to herculean efforts of my dear friends Jim and Darcie Gore, who were then fairly newly retired to Elk Grove. Did I mention that Jim is a computer programmer?

It’s rare for Jim Gore (left) and Joe Domke to work in the same time zone. Mostly they correspond with each other from their homes in California and the Czech Republic, respectively.

My first advertisers bought ads out of pity, I’m sure. Personal injury attorneys Dugan Barr and Doug Mudford were there in the very beginning. It turns out they’re both fine writers, and became A News Cafe.com contributors. Doug has a column called Reflections in a Mirror While Shaving.

Doug Mudford

Dugan writes opinion pieces, primarily related to politics.

Dugan Barr

Financial adviser Sherrill Bambauer was another of our first advertisers. Dugan Barr, Doug Mudford and Sherrill Bambauer are still loyal advertisers, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

I was married when I started this website. I’d rather not go into the whole mess that evolved, and am not even going to include the link about my personal life quake, because I’ve so moved on. But let’s just say that it was a rather bumpy ride for A News Cafe.com at the end of 2009 and for pretty much all of 2010 when I got rid of two of my business partners, one of whom was my former husband, and the other was a former friend. I divorced them both.

I do recall my ex’s prediction that I’d run A News Cafe.com into the ground within two years without him as the businessman. There were a few times when he was almost correct, and I spent a few years whining that I wasn’t a business person, that I never wanted to be a business person. All I ever wanted to do was write, and edit, and work with writers. And maybe cook and wrap packages.

My daughter pointed out that I should quit saying that, because I was a business person, and I was doing just fine. By that point I’d blown through a bunch of ad-sales people who’d come and gone, started and stopped, because selling ads is a really hard job. And besides, although I have a knack for recognizing top-notch editorial talent, I’m really lousy at choosing and retaining the ideal sales people. Every time I lost a sales person A News Cafe.com lost a little more credibility.

Fine, I said. I’ll sell ads, too. And that’s the way it’s been for a number of years now. It makes sense, because nobody knows this business like I do. And nobody is as passionate or literally invested in it as I am. The thing is, the more time I spend trying to sell ads, the less time I have for writing.

So here we are. Ten years old. Our team remains small, strong and flexible. Joe is our webmaster who does story formatting, deals with advertisers, ad placement and editorial scheduling.

Barbara Rice is our trusty admin assistant, who posts press releases and keeps a keen, watching eye on comments’ level of civility. Jim Gore is called in for troubleshooting and emergencies, such as recently when a plug-in we tried to install crashed the site. A News Cafe.com was down for 24 hours. It was painful, but it was good to hear from readers who missed the site, and wanted to know what had happened. I was glad to see that our absence made your hearts grow fonder.

I cannot stress enough the importance of our advertisers, who fund the site and keep it alive. We literally would not be here without them. Go ahead and click on this link and see who supports this site, so you can thank and support them. I’ll wait.

But other than the advertisers who signed on because they felt sorry for me (which is no longer the case), the reason all these advertisers are here is because they have websites that promote their businesses and they want to be where there are lots of eyeballs – readers – who can click on their ads and drive traffic to their websites. When I say lots of readers, I mean unique monthly visitors. Remember that early number when we first started, in the 2,700 unique visitors range?

Drum roll, please.

This summer A News Cafe.com had a record-breaking 94,000 unique monthly visitors. It blew our minds.

In addition to advertisers wanting to be where there’s a lot of traffic, they also appreciate that A News Cafe.com is locally owned, a respected site that has smart, informative, engaging and entertaining content.

It’s a chicken and egg thing, because without awesome content provided by talented people whose work attracts readers, there would be no advertisers, and without advertisers, the site couldn’t exist.

What I love about A News Cafe.com is there’s something for almost everyone. The contributors are a varied, lively, wonderfully talented group of journalists, community writers, photographers and cartoonists. Click here on this link and check them out so you can thank them, too.

Or here. I’ll post a photo of Matt Grigsby, who holds the record for the most posts, 684, primarily in Photo Cafe. You can click on Matt and see the list of A News Cafe.com talented contributors. Thank you, every one of you!

Matt Grigsby holds the record for the most posts.

As our team embarks on the beginning of its next decade, we’d like to step things up. We’d like to provide more local investigative pieces and even more fact-based journalism. We’d also like to pay our people more. We’d like more content, whether restaurant reviews or short videos.

In my dreams, one very generous benefactor would regularly throw large amounts of money at A News Cafe.com. But really, what would work even better – and be more along the lines of A News Cafe.com’s community-minded, interactive spirit — is if many of you contributed whatever you felt moved to donate each month. It would be a group effort.

If you like what you see on A News Cafe.com, and if you’d like us to go to the next level, you can help with a recurring donation of any amount that you can afford. Don’t get me wrong. I am thrilled by every single donation, whether it’s $25 or $100, both of which were contributed by two women this month. (Thank you, Y.S. and M.S.) Or one very thoughtful reader who gives $250 each year. (Thank you, B.S.) We have one loyal reader who contributes $5 a month (thank you, K.B.), and another who just set up a $15 recurring monthly donation. (Thank you, D.G). You have no idea how grateful I am for these women.

It’s difficult for me to ask for help. I always hope you will see that little “donate” button and feel moved to make a donation after seeing something you especially enjoyed on A News Cafe.com. But so far, my hopes and realities remain far apart.

So here’s what I’ve come up with: As a token of our appreciation, all readers who sign up for a recurring payment of any amount will be invited to our year-end VIP birthday party. Plus, each month their names will be entered in a drawing for one of my famously delicious sour cream coffee cakes, as well as any event tickets that come our way. How does that sound? I’m open to ideas.

Those who sign up for a recurring monthly payment of $50 or more will get a coffee cake on the spot, either hand delivered by yours truly, or, if outside our area, I will mail it. (It ships well.)

Don’t think of it as bribery, but an expression of gratitude the way I know best: parties and baked goods.

Here’s the donate link that goes to our PayPal page, which includes that magic button that says, “Make this a monthly donation”.

I’ll give you a moment to look it over.

In the meantime, join me in wishing A News Cafe.com a very happy birthday. And join me in thanking every one of our precious, valuable advertisers, and every one of our talented, engaging contributors.

And most of all, I thank you for being here, for participating, for reading, for clicking on ads and being part of this “we” site.

Here’s to many more stories and photos and cartoons and many, many more birthdays.

P.S. We’ll do the drawing for the sour cream coffee cake on the first day of each month. Today’s Dec. 1, so we’ll do a random drawing today at 5 p.m. and will announce the winner this evening. Good luck to all the recurring contributors, and thank you! 

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's 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's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate. Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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