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Pathfinder charges for edition

Pathfinder will start charging users for its new Personal Edition, but analysts aren't sure consumers will bite.

Pathfinder will start charging users to get personal, it announced today.

Time New Media is inaugurating its Web subscription business with its new Personal Edition, which will launch November 18. Customers will pay $4.95 a month, or $29.95 a year. CompuServe members will be able to get on the service for free.

The service will include tailored news from its magazines, such as Time, Money, and Sports Illustrated, as well as more than 30 news feeds. It will provide news and other information not available anywhere else, according to Paul Sagan, outgoing president and editor of new media at Time.

"Our view has been that personalization was going to be key in new media," Sagan said. People will be willing to pay for that personalization, something that other Web sites offer for free because they will trust the content. "They want brands that they trust."

But that won't be enough, said Bill Bass, an analyst with Forrester Research. "People won't pay for it," he said bluntly. "Pathfinder's losing millions and millions of dollars, and advertising is not going to change that. It's their last grasp at trying to get some money into a losing operation. They're losing managers right and left; they're losing cash right and left."

Personalized services are going to be like frequent flier deals, he added. Everyone will offer the service; many already do. So customers will come to expect the service for free. "The idea that you're going to be able to charge extra is just ludicrous."

Sagan said this is not the end-all and be-all of businesses. "We haven't said that this is supposed to be the next step after sliced white bread," he said. "The idea is to test the transaction business. It's the beginning of the first transaction. We've said all along that we would have a number of subscription products and this is the first one we've introduced."