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 anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. 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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56 Responses

  1. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    Remember tick … tick … tick? I just hope that being able to comment anonymously without being a paid subscriber doesn’t encourage those who seemed to delight in commandeering the comments sections with their continuous anti-whatever. I don’t envy Barbara her task of reading every comment for content. Perhaps in order for someone to comment, an actual name would be a requirement. And not for publication but for the site’s administration office, an e-mail address that corresponds with that name.

    I would guess that most of ANC’s subscribers felt as I did while the site was down: it would never occur to us to stop subscribing merely because of a damned hacker; we just silently commiserated with Joe while he did yeoman’s duty to rectify the issue.

  2. Beverly, my hope is that by simplifying the process to allow even non-subscribers to comment, we won’t be flooded by trolls and nasty people.

    Your suggestion about the name and email …that’s already a built-in requirement in order to comment on ANC.

    Thanks for being among so many ANC loyal readers who hung in there with us through this challenging time.

    • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

      So that means that you actually know who someone is who calls himself Anonymous or EasternCounty or some such. Those commenters are just able to be anonymous to other ANC commenters. If so, that’s a great power position for weeding out trolls. Back before the paywall, the person calling himself Anonymous was a frequent commenter, and you once bemoaned the fact that he didn’t use his real name. I thought from that that you knew his e-mail address but didn’t know who he actually was.

      • Barbara Rice Barbara Rice says:

        Stepping in here:

        Unfortunately, ANC does not have one of those verification systems (“you will receive an email in your inbox; click the link to verify your subscription”). So certain people make up email addresses because… they can, and because they don’t want to be held responsible for their actions. However, there are still ways to block people like that.

        And if you’re an internet ninja, you can figure out who those people are with the right information & tools.

  3. Avatar Robert Scheide Sr. says:

    Panic city, I would imagine. I have my suspicions as to who may have taken you down and oh how I wish you could catch them and string them up. Having built a website or two when your site gets hacked it like losing a baby. Good job, and welcome back

  4. Avatar Mark Roman says:

    Hackers love WordPress from what I’ve read.

  5. Avatar Candace C says:

    So glad ANC is alive and well. Exciting changes! Hackers be damned!

  6. Avatar Linda Cooper says:

    Yay! To a News Cafe! That rhymes, and ANC chimes.

    Anyway, hackers and other themes aside, I was blown away by your clear writing style. Just blown away. I find clarity with published writing is hard to come by these days. Damn texting. For me, it’s the simple things. Like not leaving the reader startled and cliff hanging from paragraph to the next paragraph. And explaining what a Serenity Prayer is (“to accept the things I could not change.”) Seriously, I was wondering how many folks would know the Serenity Prayer. And before you say it, I will also mention the quality of writing that others craft on this site.

    Anyway, I’m in! Although I admit that Beverly is not alone. I too thought of Barbara, and the extra time involved. Additionally, since this site will be more public, I better include last names in the future? The Cafe is no longer a club, it’s a free press!

    The thing about change that I learned this past year, is that it’s not just constant, it’s inevitable. (I’m certain that has been written before.) And the safety clause is that if one doesn’t like the new change, it’s always an option to attempt creating another change. Hum. Maybe the coast next time.

  7. Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

    Geez, I can only imagine what a long few days it has been for you and Joe. I missed checking in to aNewsCafe every morning!

  8. Avatar Doug Mudford says:

    I’ll double my subscription when I return from my fishing trip. We love you Doni. Don’t sweat the business stuff. ANC is too important not to work. Take a deep breath and watch the World News Polka with me at 3:25 am Friday morning. It will make you smile. Yes, polka.

    • You made me laugh, Doug. World News Polka at 3:25 a.m. Friday. Sounds fun!
      Doug, you are already one of our most generous subscribers, so doubling your subscription would be awesome. I’m humbled. Thank you. Bless you.
      OK, go catch some fish!

    • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

      Doug, we’re hooked on Mollie B’s Polka Party. I even gave Jim a Mollie B t-shirt for his birthday a few days ago.

    • Hi, Doug.

      ( 😉 OK. I’m going back to bed now.)

  9. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    Speaking of paywalls, I had this idea the other day….

    There needs to be a single-monthly-fee paywall service for news outlets that gives you access to ANewsCafe, NYT, WP, WSJ, Sac Bee, High Country News, Wrecked Searchlight, etc.

    You could sign up for 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 newspapers and news periodicals (sliding scale) under one account. Kinda like Spotify, but more focused so that the chosen providers get decent shares of revenue. It wouldn’t have to be divided equally—if you sign up for 25 sites, the NYT and WP wouldn’t need to get 1/25 each, because half of America is going to be signing up for the NYT and WP.

    Please humiliate this old geezer by telling me this service already exists. If not, someone needs to get on this.

    • Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

      If memory serves, you’re several hundred days younger than me, so you can’t possibly be an old geezer.

      • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

        Old geezer. It’s either a state of mind, or a state of mine.

        Today it feels like the latter.

    • Steve, I don’t know the answer, but I could see that as your next career.

    • Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

      Steve, all those news outlets you mentioned and others offer 4-9 free reads a month. I have commented on them and posted ANews articles sometimes. My home page MSN also offers select articles from breaking news with a link to the source.

  10. Avatar Claudia Hastings says:

    Who do you suggest for a firewall? I have a MAC.

    • I have no clue. Our new site host (Dreamhost) is taking care of that for ANC. I’ll be other readers will have an answer. (I have a PC.)

    • Avatar Mark Roman says:

      your Mac already has a decent firewall installed. You can further harden it by going to Preferences, click Privacy and Security, click the lock and authenticate (your admin user and password), make sure the Enable Stealth Mode box is checked. Click the lock again and you are done. I’ve used a reverse firewall called Little Snitch for years to show connections from apps and sites to the Internet. You can selectively block all sorts of connections with it, a real win-win.

  11. Avatar Dan Mabry says:

    Exactly what happened? Did they attempt to capture CC numbers, or just destroy your site and stories? Any suggestions for the web-challenged to avoid such a fate?

    Simply administering a few Facebook groups has resulted in some unexpected reverberations. I had a Felon straight out of prison banging on our door one night because a neighbor complained about his driving on a community site. A shared newspaper clip about embezzelement at a POA resulted in stalking. My Business “Yelp” page got crashed by dozens of “yelpers” who had never been customers over some other upset. The internet can be the wild west, especially if you upset the apple cart and have a listed address.

    • Online IS the wild west. I hear new stories every day from people who have bizarre things happen.

      It sounds like you’ve experienced more than your share of weirdness. Hang in there, and thanks for coming to ANC.

  12. You made me laugh, Doug. World News Polka at 3:25 a.m. Friday. Sounds fun!
    Doug, you are already one of our most generous subscribers, so doubling your subscription would be awesome. I’m humbled. Thank you. Bless you.
    OK, go catch some fish!

    • OK. That’s weird. I have no clue why my comment posted twice in two different places. I think our site is still suffering from post-surgical issues. It’s been through a lot the last few days.

      • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

        Hummm. Maybe our Doni was the hacker and is posting twice!

        I hope Mr. Scheide’s suspicion is not only correct but that the hacker can be identified.

  13. Avatar Doug Mudford says:

    Have confidence in yourself…have confidence in Joe…have confidence in your readers…nothing else really matters…except the ABC polka. All of you…check in with me when your gremlins are at their worst…3:25 am Fri morning. I’ll do a one time $50 donation to ANC in your name to everyone who says hey.

  14. Avatar Joanne Snyder says:

    Thanks for explaining everything Doni. It sounds that your new host can provide a more secure site. You and Joe wiped the smug look off the hacker/tweebs face. Polka? Last year my husband, who had an extensive record collection before the fire started playing me an album of Polkas while I cooled off in my little swim pool. I was astonished to know the name of every single polka on the reocord! Thanks Doug. I’m over hiding that I like Polkas and I play the accordion.

    • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

      When we lived in Alaska, we danced to Marge Ford (and Her Sister Patty) and the Alaska Polka Chips whenever they played on an evening Jim had off. Great fun.

  15. Avatar Cinnamon Kern says:

    This is literally the best comment section on the best news story I’ve ever read…

  16. R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

    I was for the paywall because journalism costs money and journalists need to be paid. I’m ecstatic that the paywall is down, because what’s happening here in Northern California is of national and global interest. Viva ANC!

    • You’ve been a real trooper through this, R.V. Thanks for your support of a system that surely meant fewer people read your awesome work. The gates are wide open again! Viva ANC, indeed!

  17. Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

    Actually we can all police the recurring comments ourselves. I have been guilty of it too, as Steve called it the Vortex into Negativity. The endless repetitive posts as two or three commentators try to get the last word in.

  18. Deb Segelitz Deb Segelitz says:

    Three cheers (which are hardly enough) to Doni, Joe, the new web host, the firewall, Barb (in advance), and everyone else who hung in there with ANC! I can only imagine how upsetting this past week has been for you and Joe, Doni, and I’m so glad that things are back on track. A pox on all hackers but a most vicious, itchy, bothersome pox on the ANC hacker particularly. I have a feeling that many have their (valid) suspicions on who that might be… *shakes fist*

    I’m sad to read that some subscribers left because of a brief (in the grand scheme) ANC-outage. I figured most of us would know that you were all doing everything possible to get up and running again, and that you weren’t disappearing off into the night with a diabolical mustache-twirling laugh and a sack full of subscriptions over your shoulder. Maybe those who doubted, or were impatient, will reconsider and come back. I hope so. If not, they are missing out.

    Thank you for all that you (all) do, and for explaining so clearly what’s been happening. I hope that removing the paywall brings all good things (and doesn’t bring trolls), and that ANC will continue to flourish!

  19. Avatar Karen Calanchini says:

    I am sorry for your experience with the hack, not a fun feeling to be so powerless . I am pleased, however, that the pay wall is down. I never agreed with it, always had a bad feeling about it. Not being able to make comments unless I paid just seemed not right to me. But, I am old and still living in another world which was much less complicated, more relaxed and where trust and manners mattered.
    Good luck Doni, so nice to have you back in my life and be able to read what I want, and make a comment now and then. My day just got brighter.

    • Well, thanks, Karen. I’m happy you’re happy. I never felt good about the paywall, but it was a necessity. The plan is to keep reminding non-subscribers why ANC still needs community support.

  20. Avatar Hollis says:

    Welcome home, Doni…:-)

  21. Avatar Steve Murray says:

    Glad you’re up and running again. Not quite sure of your explanation of why the paywall is gone, but oh well, it is what it is. I for one will keep the autopay going and consider it money well spent.
    Best of luck

    • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

      Agreed, Steve. I do wonder how ANC’s finances will pan out without the paywall. I feel about ANC as I do about KIXE and JPR: it can’t survive without “viewers like us.”

    • I like the way you think, Steve. I wish everyone had that philosophy. We appreciate you!

  22. Avatar Eleanor Townsend says:

    Hay, Doug Mudford, I cannot guarantee being awake on your timeline, but I am saying big yay! My Gremlins check in sooner. You are in for you $$

  23. Adrienne Jacoby Adrienne Jacoby says:

    EACTLY!! I HAVE JPR, KIXE AND ANC all on auto pay . . . . Now more than ever, independent news needs to be supported!! Most folks never had a problem putting a quarter or two in a news paper dispenser. Why should this be any different?
    Paywall or not, I hope the citizens of ANC country realize the value and support it!!

  24. Avatar Doug Mudford says:

    I hope you heard the World News Now Polka…

  25. Avatar Karen Calanchini says:

    Doni, I was wondering if you have considered a classified section, where folks could sell household items, vehicles, etc.? Would that be a real headache, or is there a way it would work? I often need to sell some small items, books, small appliance, and such.