Only for you: Web publishers get individual

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Only for you: Web publishers get individual

Conde Nast Publications this fall joins a growing list of publishing companies hoping to gain additional revenue by getting more personal with Web users.

But getting consumers to pay extra for personalization isn't a sure bet.

Conde Nast's Conde Net new-media arm will offer personalized features on its Epicurious and Swoon sites by yearend, possibly as soon as the end of October, said Conde Net Director Sarah Chubb.

Conde Net hopes to be able to charge users a fee for the personalization, which will be built as an online "club" framed around Epicurious' recipe databases--possibly including space to store recipe information on Conde Net's server--and Swoon's personal ads.


The company believes this strategy will work better than letting users customize the entire site by filling out electronic forms.

"We don't think that's what our users want," Ms. Chubb said. "If you have a club or community, everyone wants to see the same thing other people are seeing."

However, a personalized interface is one option likely to emerge when Time Warner's Pathfinder launches its Pathfinder Personal Edition this fall. The service is part of a suite of subscription-based services Path-finder will offer. It will still maintain a large, free "front porch."

The Personal Edition will carry a monthly subscription price that one Pathfinder insider said would be about $5.


Paul Sagan, president and editor of new media at Time Inc., declined to confirm that pricing.

"We've made no final decision on pricing," he said. "We've always said we won't be charging monthly rates in the $50 range."

Hachette Filipacchi Magazines, Mecklermedia Corp. and Rodale Press are all developing customizable services that let users keep or configure information on a site for monthly or premium fees.

Rodale, which recently ended a partnership with the AT&T Healthsite for its titles Men's Health and Prevention , plans to make available in early 1997 custom features to enhance Prevention's Weight Loss Workbook and Men's Health's Personal Trainer, said Susan Russo, general manager of Rodale Health Online.

Hachette plans by yearend a Car and Driver feature on America Online and the Web to let auto enthusiasts track auto news. Mecklermedia was starting discussions last week about subscription and premium strategies.


But analysts wonder if magazine publishers can create enough value from these offerings to convince consumers to pay, and if consumers really want the options.

"You can be like Burger King and say 'do it your own way,' but people will walk in and out to get the Whopper anyway," said Peter Krasilovsky, senior analyst at Arlen Communications.

"Personalization alone doesn't make a site worth paying for," said Julie Chapman, an analyst at InfoWorks Group. "I think $5 per month is pretty cheap, but consumers have shown reluctance to pay for Web content."

In addition to generating revenue from consumers, publishers hope to charge extra for advertising on their customized services, under the theory that the audiences are more targeted.

Both Paul DeBenedictis, president of Hachette Filipacchi New Media, and Linda McCutcheon, director of ad sales at Time Inc. New Media, said they would like to charge a higher ad price for their customized offerings. But such pricing is not without pitfalls.

"I'd want to know whether or not the site is going to give me additional--and verifiable--data for those users. If the site can, then yes [it would be worth the higher ad price]," said Kathy Sharpe, director of interactive communications at DDB Needham, New York.

Copyright August 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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