Interesting observation from Scott Karp: News is fundamentally a social and shared experience. Think of the water cooler, or what a publisher once said to me — I want to walk into a coffee shop and hear people talking about what they just read in our paper. Technology doesn’t change that, just makes it easier, more distributed and more obvious.
It’s also worth considering Scott’s other point: That news is niche. Rather than worry about customizing a general portal, figure out what niche you can serve with your site and then make that a social experience.
What niche might your newspaper serve? Your community, maybe?