Readers owe you nothing. They have no responsibility as citizens to read your reporting, and no responsibility as consumers to look at your ads. They have the right, and ability, to go about their lives without ever once glancing at your publication.
If you want people to read your publication, you then need to do whatever is necessary to make them want to read it.
That means leading with your best shot.
He is talking about newspapers – and more particularly US newspapers – but the general point remains. Design a website, or a service more generally, for the benefit of anybody other than the user of that service and if they have a choice, they won’t. In many government services – and not only those – that gets easily obscured because in practice users often don’t have a choice, at least in the short term. In the longer term, they could in principle find themselves a more user-friendly government, but the feedback mechanisms there tend to be weak and indirect. The more likely outcome is that the credibility of government as service provider takes another hit and the apparent attractiveness of other ways of getting things done goes up. That may or may not be a good thing, but it needs to be clearly understood as part of the price of poor service.