June 1, 1999 1:20 PM PDT

Time Warner phases out Pathfinder

Pathfinder, Time Warner's long-beleaguered Web behemoth, seems to have closed its doors for good.

As first reported by CNET News.com, Time Incorporated's new media division in April said it would slowly phase out the Pathfinder name over a six-month period. However, it seems the company has undertaken the initiative sooner than expected.

Users who now type Time Warner to shutter Pathfinder in the "www.pathfinder.com" URL are redirected to a Time.com welcome page. Previously, users were sent to a Pathfinder-branded page that served as the primary entry point for the online versions of Time Incorporated's magazines, which include Time, Entertainment Weekly, and Fortune.

A Time Incorporated spokesman declined to comment on the URL's new destination.

Pathfinder, founded in 1994, was Time Warner's first major attempt to garner Web advertising dollars and additional magazine subscriptions. The idea was to fold Time Incorporated's powerful magazines under a new umbrella site that would give users a one-stop destination for Time Incorporated's content.

But hampered by debt and sagging traffic, Pathfinder soon fell by the wayside as other more general Web aggregators, such as Yahoo, Excite, and Lycos, began grabbing millions of users and became the darlings of Wall Street.

In a previous interview, Time Incorporated New Media executives acknowledged that its magazine brands were being overshadowed by a weak Pathfinder umbrella brand. As one indication, they said 98 percent of Pathfinder's traffic goes directly to its individual magazine sites instead of the brand.

All Time Incorporated sites contain "pathfinder" in their URLs. Executives said the project will be completed once all the URLs are switched to their own addresses.

Stripping the magazines away from Pathfinder is a step in Time Warner's strategy to move its online media properties into a number of vertical "hubs"--sites focusing on specific topics such as news, business, sports, entertainment, and lifestyle. The hubs will link content from its Time Incorporated, Turner Broadcasting, and Warner Bros. properties with a common e-commerce platform.

Time Warner has appointed the executives to oversee each vertical hub, primarily from the Turner side of the company.

Jupiter Communications analyst Patrick Keane said Time Warner's move toward more vertical properties instead of supporting an all-encompassing brand follows similar trends on the Web. Keane said creating strong sites focusing on specific categories in the end will attract more loyal audiences than Web portals that try to aggregate everything under the sun.

"Internet media is about vertical categories, not big aggregation," Keane said. "And Time Warner out of any media company in the world has tremendous vertical categories."

Time Warner in January appointed Time Incorporated veteran Michael Pepe to spearhead its e-commerce efforts. A few months later, Time Incorporated New Media president Linda McCutcheon resigned for "personal reasons." The company said the two events were not related.

 

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