Provide your readers with somewhere to talk about the news — before someone else does becomes a dot-com, re-aligns to spotlight human editors in geographical and, um, topical communities.

As with Digg or Fark or any other news aggregator that allows readers to comment on the stories (from your newspaper) people post to them, the conversation that belongs with the story on your own site, with your branding at the top of it, is walking away to places like Topix.

Your readers can sign up at Topix to become “editors” of the pages that aggregate news from your town, with the power to post new stories for comment or delete others that are duplicate or off-topic.

Can your community site do that? Why not? Where’s the line between what we’ll allow a reader to edit on a site with a newspaper’s brand on it and what we’ll hire a professional to do?

The lesson? It’s another case of different resources leading to different outcomes. If you have the ability to hire a ‘community editor’ from within your news org, or to hire someone fresh to do it, by all means, hire away. But keep in mind, the stronger a sense of ownership your community members have over the content on their site (it is theirs, right?), the more likely they’ll be to stick around. Which is what you want them to do.

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