Someone is trying to shut me down. Chris, my web guy confirmed it this morning when he stopped this latest attack – and in his words, he’s never seen this before. The fake signups started again (yes, again) at 4:23 a.m. Sunday. A little over 24 hours later, I had tens of thousands of signups from someone named James Singh. Apparently James Singh (yeah, not his real name), really really wants to ‘support’ The Phoenix. He spammed my subscription signup to the degree that I literally got an email every minute.
As I type this, I have 3,012 emails to go through and more than 55,000 new, fake subscriptions. I have 194 legitimate customers. I serve a town of 5,000 people. This is Peachland, BC. Why the..why would someone be invested in doing this? To be clear, this isn’t stuff that compromises my existing subscribers or their information. No one is trying to gain access to the inner workings of my site. Chris is baffled too – there’s nothing really to gain here.
But it’s been happening a lot, starting around my one-year anniversary in March. (And you’ll remember what happened last August). When it does, there’s a lot of admin work to delete the fakes and get organized again. If you’re wondering why I haven’t been pumping out the in-depth stories lately, now you know why. I’ve been trying to keep up with all the unwanted work that happens when I get spammed this way. It’s getting demoralizing, to be honest. Spending significant time and energy maintaining a website instead of writing isn’t what’s best – because the writing, of course, is the point of signing up for The Phoenix in the first place.
I’ve been collecting evidence, and these attacks come at interesting times. When I have a story that gets a lot of comments, mostly. Last week, I was honoured with a civic award. On Saturday, I revamped some wording on my Subscribe page. Early Sunday morning, the attacks began.
So, The Phoenix is at a crossroads. My plan is to change to a local server – and it will be well worth supporting a local business for a few reasons. It will allow for some planned improvements to my site. I’ll have a help desk based in Kelowna, not the United States. Plus, I’ll have improved security and the ability to better determine who has been actively messing with my business. Most importantly, I’ll be able to concentrate more on journalism – the very reason I’m doing all this. It all comes at a significant investment for this very small business, though.
I think most of us recognize how lucky we are to live here, and yes, Peachlanders are amazing. We live in a town where more than $20,000 has been raised in a few months towards an accessible plaza in front of the Visitor Centre. We built a beautiful pier. But because I’m at a crossroads, I have to ask a few questions: Do you want independent, local journalism? Things to read that are ideas from fellow Peachlanders, not from a press release, or pawned off a Facebook group? Is there a really a value in paying a fellow Peachlander to write original local news, or are we OK with what we’re getting for free? These are the scariest questions I’ve asked because The Phoenix doesn’t exist without subscribers.
The business of journalism is fragile. I’ve written before about the state of mainstream media. But independents have it tough, too. The most successful ones have seed money – whether from a fundraising campaign, an angel investor or grant money. For a number of reasons, it’s not the model I’ve chosen for The Peachland Phoenix.
I’ll admit one of my failings is I’m terrible at promoting myself. I’m not sure about creating a fundraising campaign. I have beautifully-designed car decals, but I keep putting it off ‘because my car is dirty.’ As a journalist, marketing feels uncomfortable (heck, writing THIS and publishing it is very uncomfortable!) I’ve been pretty real with you all, and hopefully something about my story and what I’m trying to do, speaks to you. Maybe (hopefully?) it makes you want to subscribe.
I guess this is my way of letting you know what’s up on my end of things. I would love it if you gave me a try. Signing up is easy, and it’s free for the first month. 99.9% of my subscribers stay on for $4 a month. I have all the details right here.
And, as I tell all my customers, I’m open to feedback! I want this to work, not just because subscribers make this business possible. I want this to work because getting quality information is important (and as you know it’s rare these days). Oh, and I love local journalism – and our town, too.
Thanks for reading,