Readers and advertisers have more choices online now. They're looking for conviction, not convenience. News publishers need to offer their communities more to entice them to engage, to subscribe and to advertise.
In the past newspapers were one of the best social networkers, bringing readers together and ensuring businesses were placed in front of local customers.
Robert Niles in his piece quoted above, Engagement is the key to winning back readers and advertisers, looks at some of the reasons why this connection has been broken.
And while Robert aims his thoughts and ideas at newspaper groups, I think much of what he writes can be used by many of the local online news services that have recently popped up.
Being involved in the comments section, working with advertisers, highlighting the smallest of groups and shining a light on the work of others will give local sites a competitive advantage over the websites published by larger newspaper groups.
This is because the people behind many of the local websites are living in the area already and have friends and contacts which they have a strong connection with.
Many site owners are there for the long term as well, the staff turnover levels in newspapers offices would make you dizzy, so again this advantage can enable a presence to be built up.
If your site becomes the place that helps people with their questions, enables them to grow their business and makes readers feel they are part of a community both online and off then your own work will be spread far and wide.