By The Times USA.
In a recent announcement, Starbucks told customers “It has been our vision that Starbucks remains a unique and sought out destination complemented by elevated digital relationships with our customers. With that in mind, we are exploring new ways to bring news and content digitally to our stores.” The important words in that first paragraph are “exploring new ways.” When you see that, one can almost always expect the words, “Limited Time” to follow, and that was certainly the case with this announcement from Starbucks..
In fact, in the next paragraph, we found “for a limited time, we will provide complimentary digital news courtesy of The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), USA Today, The Seattle Times, Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinel, New York Daily News and more to our customers through our free in-store Wi-Fi at all company-operated locations in the U.S. Additionally, through our partnership with WSJ, we will offer special subscription levels for print and digital subscribers.” The important words in this paragraph (beyond “limited time”) are “all company-operated locations.” What that means is, if you happen to buy most of your Starbucks at a grocery store kiosk you will be very disappointed in your search for free news sources.
The announcement goes on, building even more anticipation. “This is just the beginning. We will continue to listen and learn from our customers, looking for new opportunities to deliver news, content and experiences that are relevant to our customers, inspiring to our partners and meaningful to our communities.”
Props to Starbucks for striving to be an innovator. For being one of the largest companies of its kind, Starbucks always seems interested in exploring ways it can make technology and the digital more accessible to its clients.
Good work on letting the customers be the primary tester of this service. With little fanfare or notice, Starbucks began providing this in October. They have often brought new things to market quickly and allowed the customer (or the customer’s response) be the deciding factor.
Knowing the economics of this would be interesting. From looking at this list, virtually all of these news sites are struggling. A couple of exceptions would be The Wall Street Journal and Barron’s. However, neither of them have reached the level of adaption of the two most successful old news media companies — The Washington Post and the New York Times. Many of the rest of them are on life support. All of these have likely suffered from lower traffic since attempting to force people to get subscriptions through a limited number of views permitted each month and/or bombarding the reader with ads that significantly slows down the reader’s experience. Getting increased traffic is probably worth the effort alone. In addition, they will probably pick up a few subscribers through the special offerings through the Starbucks partnership. Also, Starbucks remains a rather “hip” brand, Being in a partnership with them does more for the media rather than for the coffee purveyor.
Is doing this costing Starbucks anything financially? Probably not, for the reasons in the paragraph above. TTUSA has not received information on our question on this nor have we been able to find a statement on it, but these media need a boost and this can provide it.
Why would Starbucks ever stop providing this? As mentioned earlier, the success of this will be predicated on the customers’ response. That does not merely mean if they like it or not (they will), but whether it leads to behavior that hurts rather than helps the company. For the last few years Starbucks has been aggressively remodeling in order to make sure customers still enjoy their visits, but not too much. They don’t want customers to plant themselves indefinitely, but to be a place where people are coming and going. They have to keep the product going. Since TTUSA is made up of a bunch of journalists, this could be problematic for Starbucks if everybody were like those that work with this or other media. We have subscriptions, but not many of those listed in this give away. Also, we are always looking for excuses to get out of the office. It could lead us to spending hours at a neighborhood Starbucks. However, that is not too likely to happen for most. With the exception of the aforementioned WSJ and Barron’s, most of the rest of the content in this giveaway is easily available free elsewhere by various news sources. We predict that it will only have a modest impact of lengths of stay for visitor, if any impact at all.
Verdict? In the balance, this is a win-win-win for Starbucks, its digital partners, and Starbucks’ customers. There could be unforeseen reasons for it to discontinue, but we predict customers should see it for quite sometime.
The following is the image and link Starbucks currently provides during your visit: