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10/20/2010
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Starbucks Launches Digital Network

Coffee retailer partnering with Yahoo, Apple, and others to offer web content through its in-store Wi-Fi network, aiming to keep customers lingering longer.

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In a continuing effort to keep customers lingering over coffee in its stores, Starbucks Wednesday launched the Starbucks Digital Network (SDN) with a variety of web content, four months after making Wi-Fi free at over 6,800 stores in the country.

"The vision is for Starbucks Digital Network to be a digital version of the community cork board that's in all of our stores," Adam Brotman, vice president of Starbucks digital ventures, told social and digital media site Mashable.

When a customer is connected to the in-store Wi-Fi, they can access content from SDN in six channels: news, entertainment, business and careers, wellness, neighborhood, and personalized Starbucks customer information. Starbucks will use web analytics to track user activity and find out what their customers are interested in, according to Mashable.

Under news, Starbucks' media partners include The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today in both free and subscription-based services. In the entertainment channel, Starbucks has partnered with Apple to deliver music, apps, and books from iTunes as well as books via an HTML reader that has been chosen by the retailer from the Bookish Reading Club. Other book providers include New Word City, which specializes in business titles, and Nick Jr. Boost online education service for children's content. SnagFilms will offer a range of documentary films.

The main content provider for the wellness channel is health and fitness publisher Rodale, which is offering specialized content exclusively to Starbucks customers from magazines including Men's Health, Women's Health, Runner's World, and Prevention. Customers will also be able to access a custom built "Map my Ride, Map my Run" app. Video and blogging content is available from business networking site LinkedIn, as well as its job search feature, with a free, 30-day trial for the premium account.

The My Neighborhood channel features localized content from news and information provider Patch and an opportunity to view and donate to DonorsChoose.org classroom projects. Location-based network Foursquare lets users check in via the web in Starbucks stores, and Zagat is also offered for restaurant reviews and rating information.

The Starbucks channel will let customers manage a Starbucks account and view all of its digital properties.

Yahoo is Starbucks' backend technology partner on the SDN initiative and is also hosting the network, powering the search function and providing content.

"Tens of millions of customers are coming into our stores and logging in to our Wi-Fi on a monthly basis anyways," Brotman told Mashable. "What we hope is that this is a nice complement to that experience."

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