Since October of 2010, Starbucks has not simply provided a place for people to sit and steal wi-fi, but has given those wi-fi users access to selective content via the Starbucks Digital Network.
If you aren't familiar with how it works, it's simple. The Starbucks Digital Network is a partnership with Yahoo. As long as you are connected to Starbucks' free wi-fi, you are allowed to access the Digital Network via laptop, tablet or smartphone. The network contains many things one could access without the help of Starbucks like the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Yahoo! Finance and Zagat. The draw of the network is that all the content is offered in a "snackable format" to accommodate info gathering on the go.
Starbucks has now added additional content to the network. First, ESPN Insider Rumor Central, which is a paid service if you access is through regular means. It provides breaking sports news, predictions, and analysis. Second, The Economist, which will be allowing access to both the online version of its print format as well as online-only content. Last, Mediabistro, which provides instructional videos for entrepreneurs and job hunters.
"Following the fall launch, we've continued to seek feedback from our customers so we can continue to shape and grow the Starbucks Digital Network in a way that is authentic to the Starbucks Experience, inspires conversation and invites new customers to experience our content offering when they visit their neighborhood Starbucks," said Stephen Gillett, Starbucks chief information officer, executive vice president Digital Ventures. "Today we're broadening the offering and will continue to develop the network's channels with a spectrum of new content."
Oh, and one more thing. Coming in April, full access to the complete Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited.
Even though the digital network contains Starbucks' own content as well, the rest of the content seems to be legitimately interesting stuff that I would browse. It remains to be seen, however, whether people will swallow "snackable" portions of information hand picked by Starbucks or not. Once on their wi-fi, you can access the network by either starbucks.yahoo.com or via an iPhone app.