After finishing our study of America's top 100 newspapers and their use of the Web, I took a closer at the top 20 most circulated papers and tried to pick a few favorites. To be honest, this was a difficult task. Most newspaper websites are adequate and have similar formats. The differences lie in content, ease of navigation, and Web offerings.

For example, the website template used by the Philadelphia Enquirer was also used by the Miami Herald, the Kansas City Star, The San Jose Mercury News, and several others. There were a handful of other templates that several newspapers used, including that used by the NJ Star Ledger and the Michigan Grand Rapids Press. This template was quite common among the top 100 US papers.

To find the overall best Web experience, go to the New York Times website (#3 on our list of most-circulated papers). It's easy to navigate, and interactive features such as blogs and podcasts are extremely easy to find. They also have a wide selection of podcasts to choose from. However, that experience does not come without a price. Users have to register to read New York Times articles online. While basic registration is free, it does not let readers to view all the site's content. In order to gain access to everything the site has to offer, users have to sign up for Times Select for $50/year. Because of this, I couldn't pick the NYT website as my winner.

Maybe I'm biased because I live in Washington DC, but my vote for the best newspaper website goes to the Washington Post. They have informative content, a network of washpost.gifblogs, several podcasts, and another feature that I didn't notice on many other newspaper site. Next to every article there is a box labeled "Who's Blogging?", with Technorati links to the most popular bloggers who blogged about that particular Washington Post article. After the Post's debacle with comments earlier this year, this seems like a good way to encourage interactivity on the site without leaving the site open to comments that need to be moderated.

For the best blog network, check out the Boston Globe. They have the largest selection of blogs out of the top 100 newspapers hands down. They have a series of 28 reporter blogs, including several different news blogs, an individual blog for every area sports team, arts and entertainment, job openings, and others. In addition to Globe reporter blogs, they also offer a long list of other popular Boston-area blogs. Definitely worth a peek.

If forums/message boards is more your speed, you definitely need to visit the NJ Star Ledger's website. Kind of a dark horse at #17 on our list of 100 papers, this paper's overall website is nothing out of the ordinary. But, it has a massive series of forums that covers everything from high school sports to local news to, believe it or not, pets. I read some recent posts on a few of the forums, all of which seem popular, and the discussions got pretty heated…especially for high school sports.

For podcasts, check out the Arizona Republic. They have 21 podcasts listed on their site, which was the most that I noticed next to the New York Times.

I also found it noteworthy that the otherwise popular New York Daily News and New York Post (#6 and #7 on our list of 100 papers, respectively) seemed to be sub-par in their Web offerings. Neither site has any Web features to speak of, and their vertical, oversized picture strategy doesn't translate well to the Web. It was interesting to see how the same features that make these papers so popular in print are the same features that made them seem tabloid-y and cheesy on the Web.