ANC is up; the Paywall is Down


I write this on Tuesday evening. I know that it will be the first night since last week that I will sleep peacefully. And I know that I speak for our webmaster Joe Domke who also experienced great angst over the helpless feeling of having the site down, and not being able to do a darn thing about it.

You may have noticed that ANC has been MIA since Thursday, a product of being hacked the previous week. We still lack any concrete information about the hacker, or what exactly happened. We just know that it took getting rid of our site host of more than a decade, and hiring a new host to get us out of this mess and get us working again.

Just so you know, the hacking was not designed to contaminate or infect readers’ computers. It was designed specifically to antagonize and hurt ANC.

Guess what? The terrorists lost, and we’re back, stronger than ever. We have a new host that has a firewall to protect us from future hackings. We’re better than new.

Being somewhere on the control-freak spectrum, these last six days were a good exercise for me to recite the Serenity Prayer, to accept the things I could not change. I had to let go and let Joe and our new site hosts work their magic, and have patience that eventually, ANC would be fully restored. I had to let go of the fear of losing advertisers and losing readers, because there was zero for me to do to bring the site back to life. I was powerless. I hated that.

What’s interesting is just before the hacking, I was poised to publish a column announcing some important ANC news, and then, BOOM! We were hacked and everything went screwy, and I had to put my column on ice. It reminded me of the last time I had something significant to announce, July 26, 2018, but my important message about putting up a paywall was upstaged by the Carr Fire, which led to so much traffic that our site crashed for a few days.

Maybe the universe is telling me I shouldn’t make big announcements.

After the Carr Fire, you may recall that I did eventually announce that we were doing what I’d always said I’d never do: implement a paywall. It mortified me to make that decision, but ANC was at a crossroads: ask readers to become paid subscribers, or go under. With my back up against the wall, I swallowed my pride and asked. Many of you answered that call, and signed up. Many are still signing up. You are our site’s angels. Without you, this site wouldn’t exist. I lack the words to fully express my gratitude to you.

In this last year of new paid subscribers and a paywall, ANC has steadily gotten back on its feet. I hope you’ve noticed the exciting new content by new writers, like Annelise Pierce, all because of you who’ve cared enough about reading ANC to help support this north state community site. We heard from many of you who sheepishly thanked us, and said you’d always meant to do something to help keep the site going, and the paywall nudged you to do what you’d always intended.

The thing is, in this last year, we’ve heard periodic complaints from readers who have had difficultly remembering passwords, or have had difficulty logging on. On Facebook, many people criticized ANC for having content behind a paywall. I hated that many top-notch ANC writers were having to defend the paywall, and cajole their FB friends into donating just $1 for 24-hour access. Alas, in many cases, readers just gave up, rather than keep trying.

As someone who’s worked for nearly 12 years to keep this site full of awesome content, and who works with talented writers who toil to research and write spectacular stories, this just broke my heart. It killed me to think that there were stories not being read because of the paywall’s hassle factor.

I’m a writer, a journalist, an editor and a publisher. However, I never claimed to be a great businesswoman. In fact, I’ve never taken one business class, or even read one book on how to run a successful online news media business. This might explain why I’ve made a decision that many smarter, more savvy business people might consider disastrous, and even fool hearty: I’m blowing up the paywall. As of 11:17 p.m. Tuesday (and you know how I love 11’s and 7’s), the paywall was deactivated. The paywall is officially down. There there will be no paywall, no requirement to be a paid subscriber to leave a comment or read any of our content, even ANC’s premiere work.

Some may say that’s a stupid decision. Some may predict we’ll lose subscribers, that some current subscribers will even cancel their subscriptions because of the simple logic: “Why should I pay for something if I can get it for free?” I have an answer: I hope paid subscribers will continue being paid subscribers because they believe that doing so will help ANC continue to grow and thrive and deliver even better content.

Call me simple-minded, but I want people to become paid subscribers because you want to, not because you’re being coerced. Call me old-fashioned, but in my heart, I believe in a free press – a media site that’s free for all to read, not just those who can afford it.

My hope – and I’m betting on it – is that some of you readers who aren’t paid subscriber will be so elated at the thought of never having to remember passwords for anything related to ANC that you’ll become a subscriber as a token of your appreciation for us making ANC easier to access, and free to everyone.

I’m including this link for those who’d like to make the commitment to become a paid subscriber. (Click here.) The monthly amounts begin at $5, and go up from there, to fit your budget and desire.

What – other than interesting, informative, engaging local content – do you get for your money? First, you’re automatically signed up to receive our daily emailed newsletters that link to the day’s lead story. (If you’d rather not receive those emails, there’s a place to opt out.) Second, because we have your email, we can also notify you if there’s any important ANC family news (such as when we were hacked, and then, when we were restored). Or, you might receive exclusive news about ticket give-aways, a perk only for paid subscribers. Also, and this might sound bizarre, but another service we will provide is that we will publish your already written obituaries about loved ones, at no additional charge. (If you’ve checked out the local paper lately, you’ll know this is a big deal.) Finally, we have reinstated the previous monthly drawings among paid subscribers for my homemade coffee cakes, which I will mail anywhere in the United States.

We have some other ideas for paid-subscriber perks percolating, and we’ll announce those as they materialize.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll enjoy having ANC back online again, and will catch up with stories you may have missed.

For what it’s worth, we lost a few paid subscribers during our five-day meltdown. I mourn the loss of those subscribers. I was so sorry to see them go.

We heard from many of you during our down time, and know that our absence caused confusion, and for that, I feel horrible. I hope that our absence didn’t cause you to doubt us, or the site.

We’re back up. The paywall is down.

It’s a new day at A News Cafe. I’m grateful beyond words for those of you who’ve hung in there with us during the good times and the challenging times.

Welcome back! Welcome home.


Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as 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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