Business

Mocha And A Movie: Starbucks Debuts Wi-Fi Network

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(credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

SEATTLE (CBS) — The world’s most famous coffee shop says its customers don’t have to be wired anymore to have a good time.

Long known as a brand that has gone to great lengths to extend its market reach beyond the average cup ‘o Joe,  Starbucks has partnered with Yahoo! on a premium digital content Wi-Fi network, which makes its debut on Wednesday.

The ubiquitous coffee chain began offering free Wi-Fi access in nearly 6,800 stores across the U.S. back in July, but now looks to bolster its in-store experience with premium content choices in news, entertainment, free movies and e-books, and even free entry into several paid websites.

The network marks an interesting move by Starbucks to enter the digital books fray with a feature called the Bookish Reading Club, which offers a rotating selection of digital titles from publishers like HarperCollins, Penguin Group and Simon & Schuster.

Depending on the type of content, customers can read the books either entirely or by piecemeal in their browser via an HTML5 reader while on the network.

Here’s a rundown of some of the goodies on the Starbucks Digital Network:

Landing page: Foursquare check in; Starbucks card balance and rewards (if you’re logged in to the network); local weather conditions from The Weather Channel; and a “social media dashboard” with connections to Facebook, Twitter, My Starbucks Idea and You Tube.

News: New York Times Reader 2.0, WSJ.com, USA TODAY eEdition, Yahoo! News, Yahoo! Sports, and infographics from GOOD.

Entertainment: iTunes music and videos, including a digital version of the free Starbucks/iTunes Pick of the Week card program; the Bookish Reading Club; short eBooks on business management, leadership and travel from New Word City; Nick Jr. Boost early learning games for kids; and SnagFilms documentary film festivals.

Wellness: Articles, recipes and videos from Rodale, publisher of Men’s Health, Runner’s World, and Prevention; and a “Map my Ride / Map by Run” app that helps customers find routes (often beginning or ending at a Starbucks) in their local communities.

Business & Careers: Content from LinkedIn, including a career-focused blog and videos on job seeking tips; Yahoo Finance.

My Neighborhood: Foursquare check in; DonorsChoose.org for making donations to local K-12 public and charter school projects; community news from AOL Patch; neighborhood restaurant reviews from Zagat; Flickr photos from the local area.

Starbucks: Information on new drinks, events, and offers from Stabucks; nutrition data; way to check Starbucks Card balances.

While users can access all their favorite online destinations, much of that content can only be enjoyed while inside a Starbucks location, designed so it can be consumed in small doses, ranging from five minutes to 20. That way, the company hopes customers will 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.

It’s a move that seems natural, if not somewhat late in coming. As Starbucks faces increased competition from McDonald’s and other fast-food chains pushing fancy coffee drinks, the strategy aims at getting their customers to spend more money coffee by spending more time in the store.

But it also offers Starbucks a chance to make money by selling songs, e-books and other material to customers who linger over its free Wi-Fi, which saw 30 million log-ins last month.

(TM and © Copyright 2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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