Pathfinder to introduce subscription areas in Oct.

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Time Warner's Pathfinder is expected to add subscription-based features on Oct. 1, changing its existing business model to bring new revenue streams into its ad-supported Web service.

A Pathfinder spokeswoman declined to comment on that launch date, saying only "we have not announced a date yet and we don't have pricing settled yet either."

Central to Pathfinder's new services is a customizable Pathfinder Personal Edition developed through a partnership with Open Market, Cambridge, Mass.

SUBSCRIPTION MODEL UNPROVED

While the Personal Edition will be free to CompuServe's approximately four million subscribers through a licensing deal, Web users will pay to use the feature, which enables registrants to configure personalized pages and links. One Pathfinder employee told Advertising Age a $4.95 monthly fee was under discussion for the site's Personal Edition.(AA, Aug. 26)

Adding a new revenue stream could bolster Pathfinder's business significantly. In 1995, the company spent about $35 million to run the service, which brought in just $2 million in interactive advertising revenue. Estimates for 1996 ad revenue are $6 million.

Additional print media companies including Rodale Press, Hearst Magazines and Conde Nast Publications plan to add paid, personalized services to their sites.

Some analysts, however, are pessimistic about consumer response to Web site subscription pricing.

"The resistance on the part of consumers is going to be high," said Mary Modahl, senior analyst at Forrester Research. "There are some sites, like The Wall Street Journal, where people overseas can't get it physically and may be willing to pay. As a mainstay of a business plan, I wouldn't count on [subscriptions], though."

Copyright September 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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