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Downtown LA Scene Released Uncooked

By Eric Richardson
Published: Tuesday, November 14, 2006, at 10:31AM

Downtown LA SceneThe Downtown News recently rolled out a new arts and entertainment site called "Downtown LA Scene." The paper wants to expand its arts coverage beyond what it can do in print, and the site's supposed to be the place for that content to go.

It's a good concept, but somewhere between the idea and the execution the site took a wrong turn. A Downtown arts site should be fun and useful. Instead the "Scene" takes the same content that shows up in the paper and turns it into a garishly colored lump of text.

How am I supposed to take seriously a site about Downtown's arts and events when it looks so bad? It's a very bold artistic statement to run a solid yellow, a slightly darkened blue and a yellowish-green right next to each other, and I can't say it's a good one. You can't fully blame the Downtown News on this one, though, since they didn't design the look. All they did was take the "Head 1.5" theme for Wordpress, slap the "Scene" name next to the mast image and call it a day.

Taking a free blog theme and using it for a commercial site just doesn't sit right with me, but it's not nearly as bad and using that same obtrusive look in print advertising. Last week's "Landmarks" issue of the Downtown News featured a half-page spot for the site using those same friendly colors and the included head. While using that image in such a way may not be illegal -- the theme doesn't include a license file specifying terms -- it's certainly in poor taste.

I'm similarly disappointed with the site's functionality. The Downtown News has a wealth of content about Downtown, but this site doesn't help make it useable. The "Browse Restaurants" feature is particularly lacking, as the oddly programmed finder doesn't even tie in to the paper's very useful Restaurant Guide (which similarly to the "Scene" sports its own domain name these days).

In short, I'm disappointed in the lack of effort the Downtown News put into this one. They are the leader in covering Downtown, but the "Scene" feels like they pushed it out the door far, far too soon. This is the age of digital content and the Downtown News is going to have to put forth a much better showing if they want to keep their spot.

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