“Boycott the Red Echo”

On the “Boycott the Red Echo issue”, I think the Echo has an image problem and the layout of the Echo website doesn’t help in this regard.

For example, I go to today’s article on Everton’s fixtures. Perhaps I might be tempted to visit another article if I was provided with some interesting links. Down the right side, I can see the “Recommended in Sport” section and recommended for me, a person reading an article on Everton, are five articles on LFC, none on Everton. Below that I can see “Most Read in Sport” and I see a further five articles on LFC, none on Everton. Then in “Recommended in the Echo” there are a further five stories, three of which concern LFC, none on Everton.

The pattern here is not hard to see. Now, I’m sure that reading statistics play a big role here: the articles are “recommended” because they get a lot of hits. Perhaps the LFC articles would be more popular locally anyway – a debate for another time – but I imagine that the figures are massively skewed in favour of LFC by visitors from outside of Merseyside. But it’s important to take into account the effect this has on a big proportion of the local readership. It’s easy to see how some people might conclude: the Echo only cares about LFC.

There’s also a feedback effect at play here. Sometimes, I end up clicking on one of these LFC articles simply because it’s there, even though I’m an Everton fan. Usually I come to the Echo website via a link on Facebook or Twitter. But on the occasions when I navigate through to Everton section on the website (i.e. not following a link), I sometimes find that there are articles from a few days before that I am interested in that I hadn’t seen. If there had been obvious links to them when reading previous articles, perhaps I would have clicked on them. So, the layout of the website may be further inflating the LFC figures and depressing the EFC article stats.

I’m not sure whether to hope that this is news to the people at the Echo. If it is, then they need to have a long hard look at what they want the website to do – it’s been like this for a while and this is important, too important to be left like this for so long. It suggests a certain amount of carelessness, as a solution is surely not too difficult. If it isn’t news, and this has been wilfully ignored, then this whole problem of “boycott the Red Echo” is partly of their own making. They’ve allowed the perception of an LFC bias to fester.

On the broader issue of whether the Echo has neglected EFC by not being more critical of Kenwright’s tenure, perhaps there’s some truth in this, although much of the anger is simply born of the frustration of seeing Everton not just stagnate, but go backwards. The Echo can’t be held responsible for this deterioration in itself. To an extent, Kenwright can’t either: a lot of the problem is down to demographics, location, social changes over the last 30 years – and a bit of luck.

However, I do think that, say, 20 or so years ago, the Echo would have been more forthright and vocal in trying to push the Everton board in the right direction. I remember an article, maybe by Ian Hargreaves, from the early 90s with the headline “Where Everton Got It Wrong” and there were pictures of about twenty or so players who EFC had sold over the previous five or so years – people like Lineker, Steven, Stevens, etc. It was quite hard-hitting and the point was basically that Everton’s transfer strategy was at the root of the decline. Now whether that analysis was fair or not is beside the point: at the time the Echo would try (and often succeed) in setting the agenda amongst Everton fans. It no longer does that, for whatever reason.

You can talk about the proliferation of websites as being one cause, but I think the analysis the Echo puts forward could and should be bolder. The Echo has good writers for EFC – I just think that they’re a little bit too much in the comfort zone.

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