October 31, 1997 6:00 PM PST

Pathfinder to do free email

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Time Warner's Pathfinder will be introducing a members-only entertainment-based service that seeks to entice Netizens to buy subscriptions for its magazines as well as draw print subscribers to the Web.

Beginning in early December, the company will add a special area to Entertainment Weekly Online featuring a search engine and a complete database of the magazine's articles, as well as added content such as outtakes from interviews.

Magazine subscribers will be able to enter the site for free by using the code on their magazine mailing strip. Netizens who want to get into the site will have to pay a subscription fee that will give them entry and also a subscription to the magazine.

The move appears to be part of a growing trend in which the lines between print, broadcast, and the Internet are increasingly blurring. Many newspapers and magazines already offer their content on the Web, and Web publications such as Salon are starting to syndicate their content in print. In Time Warner's deal, both are happening at once.

In a similar move last summer, Time Warner announced that it was a launching premium service called Money, based on Money magazine.

"We're trying to leverage the value of the magazine against the additional value you can get from the Web site," said Graham Cannon, a spokesman for Pathfinder.

But Entertainment Weekly, as a site, will have steep competition when it comes out of the gate. For instance, just this week America Online (AOL) launched its entertainment-based Asylum site, joining an already crowded playing field that includes the likes of E! Online and Mr. Showbiz.

However, analysts have long said that if Time Warner can market itself on the basis of its brands, it has a good chance of becoming a player--perhaps a winner--on the Web. Time Warner has come under fire for Pathfinder, an overarching site where all the magazines can be accessed. But Time Warner has maintained that Pathfinder is just one door into its media properties and that the more doors it offers, the more likely Netizens will enter.

Toward that goal, Time Warner is also pioneering another goodie that Web sites will increasingly use to lure in Netizens: free email.

While other sites such as Yahoo already offer free email, very few--if any--strictly content-based sites have done the same. Analysts expect that free email will become so popular on Web sites that it will be a given.

The free email gives Netizens a service they want and entices them to the Web site, where they will have to go to retrieve it.

Cannon said to expect more moves from Pathfinder. "We're experimenting with some approaches that can more effectively pull our content out of our sites and deliver it to our users more effectively."

The site as a whole is going through a redesign to make it more simple to navigate and easier to understand.

"It's a little clearer and a little sharper," Cannon added. "We're playing around with it."

 

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