Pathfinder Loses Its Way

By Stone, Martha L. | Editor & Publisher, May 1, 1999 | Go to article overview

Pathfinder Loses Its Way


Stone, Martha L., Editor & Publisher


Time Warner will shut down Pathfinder.com, the media behemoth's gateway to its properties, including Time.com, Fortune.com, People.com, and CNN.com, instead allowing each individual brand to make its own way on the Internet.

Pathfinder.com was launched in 1994, well before the portal strategy hit its stride. Since then, the site has gone through a torrent of management changes and reinventions, and now only supplies 2% of the traffic to individual brands. As a comparison, MSN.com funnels one- third to one-half of the traffic to its brands, including Slate.com and MSNBC.com.

A Time Warner spokesman downplayed the news, saying the shutdown is "part of the natural evolution of our strategy for the past 18 months," including the promotion of the sites, not the portal. "From a consumer's point of view, it's irrelevant," claims Graham Cannon, spokesman for Time Inc. New Media.

But analysts don't see it as irrelevant. They applaud the long-awaited decision, saying Time Warner finally acted on what big and small brands have been learning on the Web: that brand names count, and unlikely names that don't provide clues to the content within the site, such as Pathfinder, are doomed to fail. …

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