Starbucks Digital Network Represents the Future of Digital Content Marketing.
By Josiah Mackenzie
Sunday, 10th October 2010
As I alluded to in my Think Mobile 2010 summary post, a highlight of the event was hearing Adam Brotman introduce the Starbucks Digital Network – a collection of content that will debut this fall in the US.

Built on partnerships

The initiative is built through a partnership with Yahoo! – but the real value to the user comes through partnerships that include:
  • iTunes
  • Foursquare
  • Wall Street Journal
  • New York Times
  • Zagat
  • Rodale (health publications)
Premium content for free

Through co-sponsorship, the site is able to offer premium content – such as the Wall Street Journal online – for free. The partnership with iTunes will allow Starbucks to make music recommendations and give away free samples.

This is a win/win/win deal for everyone involved. The users get free content, the companies get exposure, and Starbucks plays the role of content curator – building trust and brand value.

Becoming content curators

Starbucks feels their customers trust them as tastemakers, and want them to introduce new content. From their website:

The Starbucks Digital Network is inspired by Starbucks passion for elevating the third place experience to create a unique coffeehouse environment, its heritage of recommending music, books, films and other culturally relevant works to its customers.

That sounds a little too much like a press release, but the opportunities for other lifestyle businesses are clear. Whether that's through creating a soundtrack like the Opposite House in Beijing or creating a community of artists like the Roger Smith Hotel in New York is doing.

Optimized first for mobile devices

Over 50% of people accessing the Starbucks wifi network do so through a mobile phone  or tablet device. From GigaOM:

Brotman explained how the site will be built in HTML5, will respond to touch and swipes, and will be optimized first for iOS, Android and BlackBerry devices. This is a huge change from companies that traditionally optimize their web sites for Safari, Firefox, Chrome or Internet Explorer and expect users to view them on a PC or laptop.

Local focus

Having a local neighborhood focus is a key digital trend. Starbucks is doing this several ways.

Patch.com partnership. AOL's Patch.com provides hyper-local news created by a local editor. It's sort of like neighborhood gossip rag meets community discussion forum.

Foursquare partnership. Integration with Foursquare will provide the ability to check in on the landing page – without needing their mobile app. (Great if you only have your laptop)

MapMyRun & MapMyRide integration. These two services are incredibly useful if you're a runner or cyclist in an unfamiliar city. Brotman said many fitness groups meet up at their local Starbucks before heading out, so this is a prime opportunity to serve this community.

Why this is cool (and why it should matter to you)

Starbucks is at the leading edge of content-as-marketing innovation here. What if you followed this model to deliver premium information to your guests and customers?

Most establishments with a wireless internet network use some type of landing page for registration. The Starbucks Digital Network presents a whole new opportunity to engage with and serve your customers.

Who do you need to partner with to create and share content like this?


About the author
This blog is written by Josiah Mackenzie, who enjoys exploring the relationship between emerging technology and the hospitality industry. 

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