Industry News | August 12, 2010

Culture, Technology Merge in Starbucks Network

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Starbucks further defined its vision for the Starbucks Digital Network, in partnership with Yahoo!, targeted to arrive in U.S. company-operated stores later this fall. First previewed in June, the Starbucks Digital Network will give Starbucks customers free access to a collection of premium digital content accessed through free, one-click WiFi in Starbucks stores. Rodale, Nick Jr. Boost, and DonorsChoose.org will join the previously announced content providers iTunes, The New York Times, Patch, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo!, and Zagat.

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; and a growing worldwide interest in engaging with the brand digitally. Illustrating this last point are more than 12 million Facebook fans, nearly a million Twitter followers, and the growth of mystarbucksidea.com, where customers share, vote on, and discuss ideas for 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,” says Stephen Gillett, Starbucks’ chief information officer and general manager of Digital Ventures, a business unit of Starbucks. “To bring this to life, we partnered with Yahoo! to develop the platform as well as to power the search feature and contribute content.”

The Starbucks Digital Network will offer an innovative customer benefit that elevates the value of free WiFi and gives customers access to a destination featuring free access to various paid sites and services, exclusive content and previews, free downloads, career tools, and local community news. Starting this fall, customers can explore and access this content via six different online “channels”: News, Entertainment, Wellness, Business & Careers, My Neighborhood, and Starbucks.

Anchoring the Wellness channel, Rodale, a source for content in health, fitness, and wellness around the world, signed on to be the primary health and wellness contributor for the Starbucks Digital Network. Starbucks customers will have access to specialized premium content, including articles, recipes, videos, and community engagement across several of Rodale’s brands, including Rodale.com, Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Runner’s World, Bicycling, Prevention, Organic Gardening, and Eat This, Not That!

In addition to providing content from its brands, Rodale's section will feature the Run, Ride and Walk finder online application for local community relevance. The Run, Ride and Walk Finder online application will provide access to geo-targeted maps of more than 300,000 routes that highlight Starbucks stores along the way, and customers can upload their own trails that begin or end at their local Starbucks.

“We are thrilled to equip the active Starbucks community with tools for living a healthier lifestyle,” says Maria Rodale, chairman and CEO of Rodale Inc. “Creating content that is innovative, inspirational, and actionable is always our goal and being able to share that content through Starbucks smart new digital network marks an exciting next chapter for Rodale.”

Nick Jr. Boost, which will be featured in the Entertainment channel, is a complete, personalized educational program for early learners and their parents. Starring kids’ favorite Nick Jr. characters, the advertising-free service features fun and engaging learning through games and activities that reward and encourage children as they play. Nick Jr. Boost is based on a curriculum that includes phonetic awareness, reading comprehension, critical thinking, counting, addition, and subtraction, which help provide kids with a head start on the concepts and skills required for early academic success. Parents also get easy-to-use custom progress reports for each child and suggestions to extend the learning offline.

"By providing free access to premium services like Nick Jr. Boost, Starbucks and Yahoo! are giving customers a valuable offering and experience," says Tanya Van Court, senior vice president and general manager of Nick Jr. and ParentsConnect. "We're excited to offer Boost as a core element of this launch."

In the My Neighborhood channel, the Starbucks Digital Network will feature localized content to help people connect with their communities. As part of this channel, DonorsChoose.org will help match customers with local K-12 public school classrooms in need of support. DonorsChoose.org is a nonprofit website where public and charter school teachers describe specific educational projects for their students, and donors can choose the projects they want to support. Donors can contribute as little as $1 to help bring a classroom project to life. After project completion, the donor receives photographs and thank you letters from the students they helped. To date, 137,136 public and charter school teachers have used the site to secure funding for nearly $55 million in books, art supplies, technology, and other resources that their students need to learn. Through DonorsChoose.org, individuals from all walks of life have helped 3.3 million students from low-income families have the materials and tools they need to learn and succeed in school.

“DonorsChoose.org offers a personal approach to giving. We connect interested donors with classrooms in their community and invite them to track the progress of projects they support in their hometown,” says Charles Best, founder and CEO of DonorsChoose.org. “Being featured on the Starbucks Digital Network connects us with the local communities of Starbucks customers across the country which in turn will help many students and teachers take on innovative projects as well as cover basic classroom needs.”

“Starbucks has pushed the boundaries of innovation for our customers for nearly 40 years, and with the Starbucks Digital Network we’re creating a compelling offering that engages our customers in a new way while they are in our stores—bridging our third-place coffeehouse experience with the rapidly expanding digital world,” says Howard Schultz, Starbucks chairman, president, and CEO. “It will enhance the time people spend in our stores online, provide a new way for us to connect with customers, and overall share an experience that can only be found at Starbucks. We are delighted to welcome these new content providers into the fold and excited to see how our customers respond.”

The Starbucks Digital Network, in partnership with Yahoo!, will debut on WiFi enabled laptops, tablets, and smart phones in U.S. Starbucks later this fall.