How to promote your local siteBack in the 1990s, I read a book “Road Warriors” by Daniel Berstein and David Kline where they also wrote about creating wholesome online city halls for every locality. The City Halls would provide a range of services – news, electronic governance services, citizen activism, communities and help centers, and more, all on one site.
If you can build an accessible local site based on the above lines, you are making people come to your site for one reason or another.
We promote our sites so that more people may use these on a regular basis. I think that on a local scale, all-in-one two-way service sites that also aggregate all local sites and data (different from one-way portals) will work far better than a VC-funded review site here and a Yellow pages site there.
Copying big company styles of promotion is best left aside. How long do you think you can go on giving out free T-shirts and Coffee mugs? Gigaom has a story that.
Not all companies are VC-funded. Besides looking at ways to market your site on the cheap, remember that it all starts with creating a useful and easy-to-use service works more than anything else. If you are a local news startup, you may also want to consider hosting low-cost events such as consumer complaints drive, alternative energy awareness campaigns, local activism campaigns, contests etc.
Printing out all local classified listings and distributing cheap copies of them might help raise awareness and build an important part of business.
To end, do not look for funds just so that you can spend all the money on expensive, non-grassroots promotion campaigns.
Be creative. Be cheap.