AT&T and General Motors Corp.'s Saturn are the first to cut deals with Time Inc. ; links to their Web sites go up this week.
"We believe the Internet is an extraordinary place for marketers," said Bruce Judson, general manager, Time Inc. New Media. "Editorial products like Pathfinder will play a role in aggregating consumers and giving marketers an opportunity in a non-intrusive way to present themselves to consumers, much like they do with magazines."
The introduction of advertising to the service comes one week after Time Inc. began asking visitors to the site (http://www.pathfinder.com) to register as subscribers, the first step in a plan to eventually charge users for access.
Marketers will pay a quarterly fee of $30,000 for a gateway link from Pathfinder to their home pages on the Web. The link will rotate among high-traffic areas of Pathfinder, including branded services created by Time Inc.'s Time, People, Money and Sports Illustrated.
By comparison, Wired's popular HotWired Web site recently raised its quarterly ad rates to $45,000 from $30,000.
Pathfinder's move to register users strengthens its marketing programs. In addition to providing names and e-mail addresses, users can fill out an optional survey.
Although Time Inc. will not provide sponsors with information on individuals, it will provide overall demographic information as well as the number of new and repeat visitors to sponsor sites.
Currently, most marketers measure site "hits" (the number of files downloaded), which isn't an accurate reflection of the actual number of individual visitors to an area.
"We made the decision not to offer advertising until we could provide a valuable research program to our participants," said Mr. Judson. "We believe it's individuals, not hits, that are important."
Media companies like Time Inc. are staking out positions as the Web emerges as a marketing tool. For now, the number of marketers on the Web is limited; some, like AT&T and Saturn, have turned up as sponsors of several media sites. But better audience measurement and secure transaction capabilities are sure to open the floodgates soon.
Pathfinder is "one of the best Web sites we've seen," said Dick Martin, AT&T's VP-corporate advertising. "We think it's very attractive to readers. They take a unique approach to translating content into an interactive medium."
Pathfinder has not been ad-supported to date, although it recently provided a link to an AT&T site as part of that marketer's sponsorship of Time's recent cyberspace issue.
Pathfinder expects to add more advertisers in coming weeks, Mr. Judson said, as well as a "Marketplace" area where consumers can get sponsor information in specific product categories.
Mr. Judson has put together a sales team led by former Time Marketing Director Linda McCutcheon, now director of advertising sales and marketing, Time Inc. New Media. Charlie Thomas, a former account executive at Time, has been named associate ad sales director, Time Inc. New Media.
Time Inc. also will make its ad sales presentation available on the Pathfinder site.