Ghost Sites of the Web

Web 1.0 history, forgotten web celebrities, old web sites, commentary, and news by Steve Baldwin. Published erratically since 1996.

November 05, 2007

Thanks to the Wall Street Journal For Linking to Ghost Sites' "Pathfinder Museum."

Thanks to Wall Street Journal reporter Jason Fry, who cites the Pathfinder Museum in a thoughtful article discussing how much the Web has changed since 1995, when corporate "top-down thinking" ruled the Web and it was possible to survive by merely "listening to voices inside one's own building."

It's nice to know that Time-Warner's epic disaster hasn't been completely forgotten.

We -- the despised diaspora of former Pathfinder/Time Inc. employees - salute those who cannot forget (for more on Pathfinder, please visit The Pathfinder Museum)!

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June 20, 2007

Time Magazine Editor to Staff Writers: Write Online or Go Home

An article on summarizes the earnest efforts of Time Magazine Managing Editor Richard Stengel to induce his reluctant, pre-Web staff of writers to write online, and I got a nostalgic chuckle out of it. Way back when I worked for Time Inc., our division was one of a handful of entities in Time Inc's vast fleet of publications that was serving up content daily on the Web, and we were regarded as low-end-of-the-totem-pole geeks by Time's "real" writers, who wrote their copy at a leisurely pace, went home at 5:00 PM, and got very drunk each Friday when the liquor cart appeared on schedule.

We Web geeks, confined to an area of the Time-Life Building that had recently been vacated by Security, worked 12 hour days, earned less, got less respect, and were ultimately terminated when our division was shut down after it was denigrated by Don Logan as a "black hole."

Good luck, Mr. Stengel: you're going to need it. Writing content for this medium is more like operating a chattering Telex machine in a noisy newsroom than it is composing and endlessly rewriting golden sentences, lovingly massaged to blandness, in a well-carpeted skyscraper. Web writers write dispatches, not polished articles. We write for an invisible, often ungrateful audience. We're used to being dissed by "real writers" and aren't even granted proper press credentials.

We're a tough bunch that writes fast, and while we may not always get it right the first time, we know there are no truckloads of paper to recall when we make a mistake. For us, writing is organic and iterative, not a process that etches words in stone or lead. Some people hate the fact that we can do this, and the tone of your memo suggests that you've got your share of such Luddites working for you right now.

I hope that many of your old guard will adapt to this medium, which was new 10 years ago when I worked for Time Inc., but is now the mainstream. And I hope that those who can't or won't will be thrown out the window, just as we were tossed 10 years ago.

The only difference will be that they'll have Golden Parachutes, whereas we fell the full 37 flights flapping our arms in vain.

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January 31, 2007

Time Inc's Real Problem

Time Inc. is running out of TimeTime Inc. CEO Ann Moore is making all the right sounds about how Time Inc. might survive in a world without physical magazines. And she's made the right moves: the fact is that you don't need hundreds of editorial staffers to churn out what is effectively a series of zines associated with particular titles. You do need reporters, and you need people who know how to get this content onto the Web (and how to arrange for a two-way conversation about it), but you don't need a massive editorial infrastructure.

But the more I thought about Time Inc's problems, the more they seem to deeper than can be solved by yet another round of layoffs. And the more I read about Moore's new initiatives, including the planned rollout of a celebrity database for People Magazine, the more I became convinced that she just doesn't get it.

Yo, Ann: who was Time's Person of the Year? It was us: all of us, not some celebrity. What are the biggest, fastest-growing Web properties? Myspace and Youtube. People Magazine's "let's look at the golden people and drool" model is completely out of place in today's media world, which isn't top-down but peer-to-peer. And in a world where online erotica is pervasive, who needs the SI Swimsuit Calendar?

These fundamental problems aren't going to go away. For Time Inc. to invent itself, it will have to completely rethink its basic selling proposition, which can no longer be "to bring the world to you" but must change to "bring you to the world."

Good luck.

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March 29, 2006

The Wall Street Journal Honors Pathfinder (The World's Greatest Web Site)

The Wall Street Journal ran a piece today which mentioned Pathfinder (the site I used to work for and the subject of Ghost Sites' Pathfinder Museum (The Web's largest online repository of images, text, and other data related to Time-Warner's

The somewhat bland article, by Matthew Karnitschnig, gets it mostly right: despite an early, once-in-a-lifetime chance to dominate Web content, Pathfinder was destroyed by internal dissension, behind-the-scenes sabotage by certain Time Inc. senior executives, and a near-total inability by senior management to see the potential of the World Wide Web.

The article, however, doesn't begin to capture the blood-on-the pavement, sex on the desktop, poison-pen-email-in-the-dead-of-night, industrial-quality alcohol-and Tulenal-fueled reality of life behind the scenes at The World's Greatest Web Site. Nor does it touch upon the smoldering hatred that one felt in the elevators from jealous old-media editors, the incredibly botched software executions, the smashed-up New Media lives whose downward trajectories paralleled the death of the site, Sick Building Syndrome, or Wiccanism, all of which contributed to Pathfinder's demise.

No, none of these things were ever written down. Only the mute objects in The Pathfinder Museum, plus a few tepid lines in a finanacial paper, are all that stand to remind history that Pathfinder, The World's Greatest Web site, was anything more than an apparition.

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