How about making better coffee?

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.

18 comments

  1. Tim Jarrett’s avatar

    Doc, with respect to Starbucks and milk drinks–I find it’s a lot better when I order a “dry” cappuccino, which most baristas seem to know how to make but which isn’t called out on the menu. (Making it, I suppose, the double-double of Starbucks drinks.) But generally speaking Peets does kick some mermaid tail.

  2. Tim Jarrett’s avatar

    Sorry, just followed your link. Evidently the “dry” is not universal.

  3. Roy Silvernail’s avatar

    That cruft at the end of your pasting comes from Tynt Insight, a “product” that seems actively user-hostile. Techdirt covered it here: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20100601/0047399633.shtml
    It produces track-enabled links that get added to the clipboard. One more target on your back.

  4. Bertil Hatt’s avatar

    Coffee? Internet access and news? Well: there is a ton of synergies going there —starting by the Starbuck’s brand as story-telling— but there are not trivial, ie. they are great.
    If $5 coffee are used to pay for journalists (directly as employee Starbuck’s News Co. or through corporate subscription) that’s amazing! And if people start openly talking about current events, innovation and bloging at Starbuck’s, that’s great! I won’t go there any more than now (rarely, if ever), but I’m glad they take yet another French tradition, rebrand it and make it work. And remove time from the hands of trolls that comment on sites I don’t read.

    I’d know anywhere I’ll go, they’ll be a Starbuck’s with colorful patrons who’d love to fight to give me their impression on local politics, or advice—say, on where to get a great coffee ;).

    BTW: Where you are Doc, the best coffee in town is at Verlet, rue Saint-Honnoré, near the Louvre.

    PS: Am I the only one with a Starbuck’s name? I can’t give my actual name to the barrista: they stare at me puzzled and come up with a amazing way to rephrase it that just blows my neuro-linguist mind every time. So now, I’m “Bob.” I like “Doc” though. Might use that.

  5. Bertil Hatt’s avatar

    Oh, and I’m glad they don’t serve good coffee: great beans are rare, and I don’t want those lost on people who have no taste. Just like I’m happy McDonald’s serves the minced meat of milking cow: that market gives extra money to dairy farmers and makes the milk cheaper. (See West Wing, season 1 for why milk should be cheap.)

  6. Ric’s avatar

    Good call, Doc … I avoid Starbucks like the plague because I like coffee. If they want to give us compelling content, they should start with the content of the cup before they worry about what they serve up over the wi-fi :)

    [Disclaimer: I live in a city with a long and glorious history of Italian-inspired cafe culture - Starbucks couldn't cut it here]

  7. Rob’s avatar

    There are maybe two scenarios in which I might buy a Starbucks Coffee:

    1) It’s 5am, I am at the airport, and nothing else is open.
    2) I am in an unfamiliar place and it doesn’t look like much exists besides Starbucks.

    Ultimately it comes down to the fact that their coffee is bad. I got the biggest kick out of the instant coffee marketing campaign Starbucks did recently. “Look,” they said, “people can’t tell the difference between instant coffee and our coffee. Indeed they can’t…

  8. Jan Searls’s avatar

    Free wifi is a no-brainer; even McD’s has that now, but a sixteen sentence write up about Starbucks that uses the word “content” eight times and never in reference to coffee? To my way of thinking that about sums up their problems.

    Have a great time in Paris!

  9. Flip’s avatar

    * There is no such thing as GOOD coffee. Some of us think all coffee tastes like dirt. ;-)

    * Pete’s is never in any location I frequent and need a wifi fix. Starbucks is always where I need to be.

  10. Randy Hoffman’s avatar

    Courage or stupidity here goes – I like Starbucks coffee and I think their new wifi program has merit. I’ll leave the Starbucks debate to another time. The wifi program seems like a nice first step in creating an environment to explore information. Sure Patch.com is already available on the web. But in three years a majority of the population will still be unaware it exists. So the Starbucks’ environment might introduce them to it, and other things as well…good. Until the tools are in place to pull relevant info into my personal online locker from a semantic web, this seems like a good idea. Gorden Borrell says the “deer now have guns.” No one said the initial guns had to have amazing firepower.

  11. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Tim, I’ve all but given up ordering “dry,” since they still too often put way too much milk in the cup. Usually I say “very dry” or “just foam.” Sometimes works.

  12. Andy’s avatar

    The fact that Starbucks is trying to lure wandering customers back into stores with one thing that’s considered a common courtesy, and another thing that amounts to AOL 2.1 tells you how far out of the loop they really are.

    The simple story is – if you don’t let your customers surf where they want to go, they’ll go elsewhere. Installing a content wall will just alienate the kind of savvy urban netizens they purport to cater to.

  13. Doc Searls’s avatar

    I disagree with many of ya’ll about the quality of Starbucks’ coffee. Many of Starbucks actual bean types and blends (e.g. Cafe Verona) are actually good. How the beans turn into cups of stuff at the stores is generally hit-or-miss, and mostly it misses… unless your idea of a good coffee is hot milk with a faint flavoring of coffee.

  14. Mike Barlow’s avatar

    Thanks for posting this. Starbucks is about to give a huge competative advantage to the local independent coffee shop.

    Anybody can go to a Radio Shack, pick up a $50 broadband wireless router and authentically be what Starbucks is trying to be by simply making a good cup of coffee, providing internet access, providing a list of great local blogs, and respecting their customers by not “tracking” them in a giant database.

    Why they are trying to reinvent the business model of AOL circa 2001 is beyond me, but as a fan of small independent businesses I love the idea.

  15. Jamie T’s avatar

    Q-What’s the title of the book the founding president of Starbucks Howard Behar wrote?

    A-”It’s not about the Coffee”

    I think that pretty much says it all.

  16. Kennedy’s avatar

    I think the collection of information is a little off. It just seems like a new age form of telemarketing. Just because I enjoy drinking Starbucks doesn’t mean I need to receive an email a day reminding me about their coffee. My caffeine urges will take care of that just fine.

  17. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Thanks, Roy. Good to know. And shame on Wired for using it.

  18. Chloe Davies’s avatar

    i was in the telesales business a few years ago but now i do internet marketing”`

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