June 15, 2010

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Starbucks Announces Free Wi-Fi, Proprietary Content Network, the headline says, in a story by Eliot Van Buskirk in Wired. Some quotage:

“Free Wi-Fi is in my mind just the price of admission — we want to create … new sources of content that you can only get at Starbucks,” chairman and president and CEO Howard Schulz told the Wired BusinessConference. “This is a thing that doesn’t exist in any other consumer marketplace in America.”

Starbucks hopes to make money from these initiatives indirectly, by “enhanc[ing] the experience” and making the content “so compelling that it drives incremental traffic,” said Schulz as he announced the new initiative at Wired’s Disruptive by Design conference on Monday…

Each customer must log in to Wi-Fi and the Starbucks Digital Network with a unique identifier, so Starbucks won’t only know where you are, but who you are, potentially allowing for targeted messaging to offset cost further. Focus groups have been quite receptive to the free Wi-Fi and local content customers will get in return, says the CEO.

So, where will all of this content come from? Especially, when Starbucks wants it to be updated multiple times a day, so people always see something new.

In addition to the inked partnership with Yahoo, Starbucks is talking to AOL’s Patch.com content-creation division about having it create customized content for the network. In addition, the network will include free online access to the Wall Street Journal, with a percentage of subscription revenue generated when coffee drinkers decide they want to access those articles elsewhere, too.

Salivating yet? Me neither.

The last thing I want from Starbucks — or any store, for that matter — is a target on my back. I do not wish to be tagged like an animal and tracked by marketers. The only identifier I want from Starbucks is the one I give them to call out when my coffee is ready. And that may not even be my name.

The free online access to the Journal is a nice deal, since the paper, both online and off, is freaking expensive. The “proprietary local content” is a big so-what. Sure, Patch.com is good at what it does, as is WickedLocal.com. But both are already free on the Web. And it’s unlikely that local journalists are going to want to go to work for Starbucks, especially for the money they’re not likely to make.

To me Starbucks has three problems, at least two of which Schultz has addressed already and needs to address again. One is the continued belief by its employees that a cappuccino is one ounce of espresso and ten ounces of milk in a twelve ounce cup. Another is selling too much stuff that’s not coffee. The third is music that’s too loud.

Visit any Peets. There the problem is that all the seats are taken. At most Starbucks they aren’t. (Far as I’ve seen, anyway.) The simple reason is that Peets makes better coffee.

It also annoys me that the Wired story lacks links to Patch.com and the Journal.  It also forces me to copy this, even though it’s not visible in the story’s print:

Read More http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2010/06/starbucks-announces-free-wi-fi-proprietary-content-network/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+wired%2Findex+%28Wired%3A+Index+3+%28Top+Stories+2%29%29#ixzz0quYSZGhb

I hate that. I also don’t know how Wired does that, nor do I want to take the time to know it, though I probably will, so I can hate it more specifically.

Bonus link, via Bruce Sterling.

The Onion: Starbucks To Begin Sinister ‘Phase Two’ Of Operation.