Why hyperlocal publishers should love the Starbucks Digital Network
Starbucks, which has 7 million weekly and 30 million monthly unique visitors logging onto their free one click WiFi network, will become an online portal of aggregated content later this fall. Customers, already lured into the stores by the free WiFi, are going to be further tempted on the Starbucks splash page by free iTunes downloads, access to gated content, as well as featured content, including hyperlocal sites. Localized content particular to the store's location -- including civic-minded events like helping local schools and charities -- participate in a revenue-sharing deal with Starbucks.
"We’re creating an online destination that will be true to, and expand upon, the Starbucks experience by delivering free, premium offerings that are selected specifically for our customers and localized for increased personal and community relevance," said Stephen Gillett, Starbucks' CIO and general manager of Digital Ventures. "To bring this to life, we partnered with Yahoo! to develop the platform as well as to power the search feature and contribute content."
Already signed up for the Starbucks Digital Network are respected content providers like The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and USA Today, as well as AOL's rapidly expanding hyperlocal neighborhood Patch network. A few weeks ago, Starbucks announced that SnagFilms, which produces ad supported documentaries, would also be joining the roster. Ultimately, however, hyperlocal publishers may have the most to cheer about in the Starbucks Digital Network.
With over 6,000 U.S. company-owned brick and mortar locations, Starbucks likes to refer to itself as being a "third space" between home and work. Servicing the local community, as hyperlocal sites do, perfectly parallels the high-end coffee chain's philosophy. It's a natural match. And the network -- a fourth space, if you will -- features "my neighborhood," one of six channels that will be of the most interest to hyperlocal publishers.
There is good reason to be optimistic that this might work to everyone's advantage. Starbucks is already in many areas of the neighborhood -- or, in the case of big cities like New York, the block hub. The content partnerships are a win-win for both in that publishers gain from promotion on the Starbucks splash page and the coffee chain gains in neighborhood loyalty, attracted to their public spiritedness. Besides, if a good old cup of joe can't bring hyperlocal publishing and social media together, then I just don't know what else can.
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