The Liverpool Echo website is easy to find, places itself at the top of Google listings and fills every area of white space on the page. It does use alot of flash media which can become annoying but generally it is colourful, full of information and up-to-date. Typical red-top tabloid.
Football within this area (North West) is obviously of paramount importance to the people and the site (along with The Daily Post site) and continues to focus on the latest games involving Liverpool FC, Everton FC and Tranmere Rovers.
Use of imagery in both the Echo and Post is vibrant, with lots of photographs to select and a good size of picture to click on. Each headline story is separated into its own box with its own image, allowing the user to pick what 'they' believe is the main story of the day.
Both publications are similar, The Daily Post is less tabloid and focuses on less sensationalist story types in my opinion which gives it more balance. The Post is not at the top of the Google listings, so that could be developed further.
Other Trinity Mirror publications such as: Daily Post North Wales, Examiner, LDP Business, Daily Post Cymraeg, Caernfon Herald, Denbighshire Visitor, North Wales Weekly News all have the same template structure as The Liverpool Echo but tend not to use as much flash imagery, selecting static photos instead, which I prefer.
Specifically, the positives from The Liverpool Echo site are the embed Liverpool.com widget that users are able to download, and have the Liverpool.com site readily available. It took my third look at the homepage to realise there was a selection of headline stories to choose from. This could be developed to make them more prominent allowing the user to actually select what they believe is important. Structuring their own news, which is an intelligent and new way to give the user a news gathering force, which, in turn can only be a positive aspect of site navigation for the future.
Other areas of interest from other publications include: The Bootle Times. Main headline: "Handgun used in Bootle newsagents armed robbery (VIDEO)". A strong headline which is of interest to that area and gives the user the option to view the actual attack on video. An Excellent leader. This type of story is emotive and by using interactive video enables the user to virtually view what occurred.
The Formby Times. Main headline. "Meet Formby Police's Second in Command". A strong story which is of public interest to its usership. Many sites are using this strategy by using high-ranking members of society and giving the public an insight into their lives. What could be developed is the option to have a web-chat with them, or, be able to ask questions which will be answered at a later date. It all builds towards gaining comment from the public.
In my opinion, the most important aspect of how sites work now , and will do in the future is to have a total focus on usership comment. Sites such as Twitter, Digg etc... give the user the opportunity to vent their opinions on what is newsworthy, or merely leave a one-line gripe at how they're feeling at that time. This, I believe will be the future of user confidence and will build a strong relationship between the site and its followers and hopefully maintain a devoted audience/fanbase who will stay, and continue to return to the site.
Competitors to the NW publications (BBC, Topix, Liverpool Vision, Southport Reporter. Local Life:Ormskirk etc...) do have other notable differences. For example, the use of weather is always prominent throughout other sites - it's kept simple and easily visible, which is always a bonus for a fleeting web-user. This is also evident with maps, blogs and forums, all of which are at the forefront of a web-users useage.