Joanna Geary, communities editor at The Times, told the news:rewired conference in London today that journalist must get "to know their fans".
Geary said that there were now a variety of ways of communicating with readers via news websites and finding out what they are interested in.
She said in the past the only feedback journalists got was when editors told them their story was good.
Geary said of The Times: "We have ended up with a tremendous community of people. A strong, loyal base that believe they own the site. Things start to change when you acknowledge readers."
She added: "Journalists have to know who are their fans. Find out as much data on people who care about you and are interested in you. It works."
Ed Walker, online communities editor, Media Wales, stressed the importance of knowing what readers want from sites. He said people do care about the area where they live and are passionate and felt far less intimidated sending an email to a journalist giving their opinions, rather than talking to them direct.
Among the initiatives Media Wales has promoted is a map of pot-holes based on information supplied by readers, meet-ups with bloggers and guest posts by local historians.