Homepages are where a site sells itself to its audience. A showcase of the best and most potentially interesting content on offer, and like the front page of any website it should be a good indicator of the content within.
Too many commercial elements are likely to distract the visitor (particularly animated/flash adverts) whereas the homepage should be the shop window, showing off all the best and freshest content, pulling them deeper into the site. Advert overload will dilute the effect of each ad anyway, not so appealing to potential advertisers.
Relevance is the next key: is the content relevant and of interest to the visitor, the content is far more likely to gain further page views, time spent on site and engagement. Play to your strengths, don’t concentrate on areas where competitors are stronger. Do what you do best and link to the rest.
The website needs to make money for it’s owners but bombarding visitors with too many commercials on home or landing pages (and technically every page could be a landing page) is just distracting the visitor from what they came for, and therefore annoying.
Contextual (i.e. relevant) ads on articles or deep content pages are more likely to get noticed partly because visitors will spend more time focussed on those pages, whereas on homepages they will be scanning for their next link.
The power of choice lies with the audience as with so many media/leisure options (like on demand TV, radio, games), therefore Web users are used to being in control or voting with their feet and clicking off somewhere else – the Web after all is built on links.
Local news sites need to keep their focus on their strength – quality and depth of local content, based on their knowledge and established brand. They should know their market and be in the best position to deliver.