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Paper Man

Eric Richardson's blogtdowntown Weekly goes Live; too Live?

Looking for a blogdowntown Weekly on Thursday, the day of its launch, we couldn't find one for the longest time. So we went back to the publication's mothership and down the staircase came none other than Eric Richardson.

The two of us walked over to a building at Ninth and Broadway where half the bW's are kept. I had a chance to see one of the two bikes that Flying Pigeon of Highland Park donated to the distribution effort. And Eric, an avid cyclist himself, filled the bike's basket with papers and got a great head of steam and cleared the ramp with it.

The building at Ninth and Broadway, the Blackstone, as it happens, just got its CoO last week. It's got eighty-two units ready to go. It's one of five residential properties downtown that are in the LA Live family. It's also featured along with two other properties in the editorial section of the newspaper that's using it's parking garage as a distribution hub.

LA Live itself also occupies the lone full-page ad in blogdowntown Weekly, occupying the back page.

And LA Live also appears again via a piece by Richardson on whether or not the complex performed up to snuff as a venue for the recent X Games (the verdict: it did, according to Staples Center General Manager Lee Zeidman). The piece also features a stale quote from June by AEG CEO Tim Leiweke.

So a few more details about bW came into focus. The publication's special relationship to LA Live appears to be extensive, perhaps even of the kind of dimension that suggests a patron. Richardson owns the LLC that runs bW, as he does for blogdowtown itself, but with the print publication, distribution wouldn't have happened this week without 901 Broadway's/LA Live's in-kind awarding of distribution space.

Whether or not Richardson can remain at arm's length to the one particular developer downtown who is so involved in the publication's launch will remain a lingering question as subsequent issues hit the cafes. And with next to no distribution points in the financial district, whether the publication can truly distribute 25,000 copies in the downtown area in an honest and timely way will certainly be noted by competitors LA Weekly, Brand X, and Downtown News, all of which have secured newsstands downtown as well as conventional distributors and lots of distribution points.

The worry here is that if Richardson appears too dialed into LA Live, other residential buildings and their cafe tenants may not see the attraction of distributing a newspaper that consistently advises them to be entertained and even to live elsewhere.

As for the content--one thing Richardson is certain to have experienced this week is that there is no correctable feature in print. A few photos of people, including one on the front page, are not captioned. There's a restaurant review that doesn't bother to list the restaurant's address. There's a maddeningly bizarre interview of downtown entrepreneur Joon Lee that never fully establishes whether it's an interview or a venue review or a restaurant review. Richardson has five bylines in the newspaper himself. His present editor-at-large, Michael Shane, responsible for the restaurant review without the address, writes what can only be described as shaky copy at best. But the cover profile of The Gorbal's Top Chef Ilan Hall show promise, even if the Downtown News had already done a piece on Hall eight months ago.

It's an uphill path the publication faces--an uphill path on a bike.