Starbucks to Offer Free Online Content

image via gizmodo

Starbucks is partnering up with Yahoo to offer free online content to customers. As you already know, the coffeehouse already offers free wifi, but what is even more interesting about this is that:

…The site will also allow unfettered access to some services that are pay-only outside of the store—notably, the entire Wall Street Journal website, famous for their iron pay wall.

This move is designed to keep customers from converting to other fast-food chains (namely, McD’s) that are unveiling fancy new coffee drinks at a cheaper price. McDonald’s rolled out McCafe in 2009, and now includes seven high-end coffee drinks.

So, not only does this new “free” stuff allow you to justify spending at minimum ~$3 for a cuppa java (because let’s be real here: I am the only person I know who will actually order a tall coffee-of-the-day coffee. Black. No sugar. But $3 is already half the cost of a bag of decent whole/ground beans from the grocery store… and an entire bag of ground coffee yields more than 20 cups of coffee. So when it comes to the nitty-gritty truth why the hell do we choose to spend so much money on one cup of coffee that should really only cost half of what it does? The world of marketing is so fascinating.), but it allows Starbucks to rake in the dough from the advertisements of other non-coffee related products.

So what’s the catch?

The free content can only be viewed in “small doses” at a time, meaning a customer will be able to read an e-book for about 20 minutes before access is restricted.

…People either want to buy the content outright to take with them, or return to Starbucks again. The sites were designed to remember where people leave off in a book or a movie, so picking it back up is seamless.

Looking at it from both a business and consumer perspective, this actually seems like a good idea. So let’s assume you go to Starbucks, you buy your $3 coffee, sit down, pull out your iPad and start reading The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. 20 minutes goes by too fast. You’re lazy. You don’t want to leave the establishment and come back for another allotted 20 minutes of juicy novel time. The place is packed and you’ll lose your cozy seat, anyway. You buy the novel and download it for $9 (I don’t know how much the ebooks will cost..I’m just guesstimating here). At the end of the day, you’ve already spent $12 when you normally would have spent $3.

Just goes to show there’s “no such thing as a free lunch.”

Also, and you know I’ve got to get my coffee snobbery in here, the announcement comes at a time when cafes and other elitist coffeehouses are trying to abolish the use of cell phones and laptops, in order to create a more… intimate experience between every customer and the espresso he’s just ordered. (NYT article here) The displaced gadgets-for-appendages customers will potentially succumb to the Starbucks universe, which is looking pretty welcoming to everyone right now.

Starbucks Rolling Out Free Content to Keep You Loitering in Stores
Starbucks hopes online content from Apple, Yahoo, others lures customers


2 Responses to Starbucks to Offer Free Online Content

  1. lew247 says:

    Excellent post. Wow, this certainly gives me incentive to go to my local, overpriced Starbucks.

  2. Pingback: Rebranding, Revisited « IN NEW YORK

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