...you can add all the widgets you want (including ads), if the site has an identity crisis - people wont stay, they may register, but what's the average post count after say 2 or 3 (beyond asking for help)? Are they contributing to the site, do they stick around to create a social community or network as you put it?
I admit, the recent changes left me (just my opinion) with the impression you're going for a more automated format - with the news etc - and were turning away from a social site. All I know is, I don't blame any site for lots of content and my slow connection's inability to deliver it fast - if the content is there I will wait for it.
On the other hand - lack of content=no good reason to stay=byebye - I believe this is the standard reaction from most visitors to a floundering internet presence.