Pathfinder gets a leader--temporarily

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Norm Pearlstine, editor in chief of Time Warner, will assume senior management responsibilities formerly handled by Paul Sagan, outgoing president and editor of Time Inc. New Media for the next few months until Mr. Sagan's successor is named. Mr. Sagan announced plans to leave his position overseeing Time Inc. New Media's mega-site Pathfinder earlier this fall to travel with his family and consult.

Mr. Pearlstine's move--though a temporary addition to his overall responsibilities at the company--is an interesting one, underscoring either the company's commitment to online journalism (high-profile editor Dan Okrent, formerly managing editor at Life, was recently named to a senior editorial post in the division), or the need for veteran management to take charge of the service's future. Or both.

Names bandied about for Mr. Sagan's successor include Bruce Judson, general manager; Linda McCutcheon, VP-advertising sales and marketing; and Oliver Knowlton, VP-technology.

1996 was a much-watched year one for Pathfinder. After public comments out of Time Warner that the service was proving to be a financial "black hole" for the media empire during 1995, the service remained under scrutiny by the ad and media community. Ad revenue in 1995 was about $2 million; earlier this year, senior managers at Pathfinder said they expected the service to bring in $6 million in ad dollars.

As planned, Pathfinder launched a subscription-based version of its free site to extend the number of revenue streams pumping cash into its enterprise aside from advertising. The customizable Pathfinder Personal Edition, announced in spring and made available in November, costs $4.95 per month (and is also available at a discounted annual subscription rate) for Web users and is free to CompuServe users through a licensing deal.

As of last week, Mr. Judson declined to comment on the final tally for 1996 ad revenues, saying only "we're very happy with our ad revenues." Neither he nor a spokeswoman for the company would comment on the number of Personal Edition subscribers on the Web, saying the company was happy with results but that after only one month it was too early to begin talking about subscriber numbers.

Copyright December 1996, Crain Communications Inc.

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