A local university and I started up a writing portal - http://www.writingworks.co.za/ with the aim of getting good user-generated content and developing a writer community in mind. If you have a captive market of some sort it does help (the university, in our case, has a writing centre that provided access to students and alumni). In your case, I imagine it would be your personal brand + Exeter Express that drove the initial adopters? If it was primarily the content that drove the traffic, I would be interested to know how you brought in the first visitors. Did these come from the partners like the sports clubs?
I do agree that technology has changed the media landscape completely, and it has certainly reduced barriers to entry. However, the new challenge is not one of simply publishing good content - it is one of determining the social levers to generate traffic. Ideas like social mapping - http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/blogcollegeofjournalism/posts/How-to-map-your-social-network bring to the fore new skill sets that will be essential to the success for future media companies. There is way too much choice for consumers now, and with that comes the risk that much good published content, may never reach its target audience.
Interesting reference to the Paralympics too - thought the relative BBC coverage of the able-bodied games was leaps ahead in terms of quality. I guess though,l that there is a lot of subjectivity when it comes to what's ethical and what is not - from both the reporters and the consumers perspectives.
Peter, I'm all for the media investigating and exposing villainy - one can only hope that other countries follow the UK in terms of enforcing some form of real punishment for those that are exposed - or at the very least publicising the fact that the said villain has got off scot-free!