Time Warner's PathFinder
announced its first
subscription service, which the company says will deliver its huge library of
People, Time, Sports
, and many other publications faster and without having to weed through unwanted material.
The company will deliver the new service through a technology contract with Open Market and an expanded marketing
agreement with online service
Scheduled to debut by the end of the summer, PathFinder
Personal Edition will allow subscribers to receive personalized
news and information from the media giant's publications and create custom
magazines using material on specific topics from multiple sources. For
example, a user could ask for everything in PathFinder's archives about
computers to be automatically compiled into one catalog instead
of having to search through all the computer
Pricing has not yet been announced for the service, but company officials said it will be "extraordinarily low." David Ludlum, an
analyst with Link
Resources, said he expects the
service to cost about $5 a month. Ludlum attended a PathFinder
press conference held this morning in New York to announce the service.
users, including members of its Wow and Sprynet services, will get the PathFinder
Personal Edition for free. CompuServe said it doesn't plan
to raise membership fees.
The number-two online service already offers its subscribers exclusive content from some of
Pathfinder's offerings. "We will continue to have
branded version of Time magazine and various news, but this is the most
significant single content addition that we have ever had," said Jeff Shafer,
CompuServe spokesman. "This service allows you to essentially build your
own magazine by filling out a profile."
To speed the downloading of customized content,
Pathfinder is combining its Personal Edition service with software from Open
Market that manages fast Web access from the desktop. Called OM-Express, the software lets users
program the time they want specific files downloaded and then
automatically goes out and retrieves the materials for the hard drive, where they
can be viewed offline at any time. The PC
must be kept on during the process.
A Pathfinder beta version of OM-Express is available for download.
With the new service, PathFinder is confronting the widely debated
question of whether Web content vendors should charge for their material.
"It's a good short-term move and
will probably bring in a good chunk of revenue, but in the longer run I
think there will be a demand for niche information rather than for
publishing brand names," Ludlum said. Pathfinder officials said today that
the company will target niche markets but didn't specify what areas the
company is considering.
The existing PathFinder site, launched 18 months ago and widely
considered one of the most popular Web sites, will continue to be free to visit.
But the new service may be an acknowledgment that advertising revenue alone
is not enough to generate a profit. Pathfinder gained a
spot on the top 10 advertising revenue list last year and generated $810,000
in revenue during the fourth quarter, according to WebTrack, but the
company has yet to earn a profit.