Starbucks Offers Free Digital News at U.S. Stores for a Limited Time

Along with special pricing for WSJ subscriptions

A month after discontinuing the sale of print newspapers at 8,600 stores, Starbucks is offering customers and publishers a compromise along with their pumpkin spice lattes. At company-owned Starbucks locations in the United States, coffee customers will be able get free digital access to The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), USA Today, The Seattle Times, Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinel and New York Daily News for a limited time. Starbucks did not say how long the offer would last.

It has been our vision that Starbucks remains a unique and sought out destination complemented by elevated digital relationships with our customers. With that in mind, we are exploring new ways to bring news and content digitally to our stores, said Starbucks in a blog post.

This is just the beginning. We will continue to listen and learn from our customers, looking for new opportunities to deliver news, content and experiences that are relevant to our customers, inspiring to our partners and meaningful to our communities, Starbucks added.

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In addition to free digital access to the named publications available via Starbucks WiFi, the company will also offer special pricing for print and digital subscriptions to WSJ. Starbucks did not specify what the arrangement is between the coffee retailer and WSJ or the other publishers, but it is likely to be a mutually beneficial relationship, regardless of whether or not money actually changes hands.

When Starbucks first made the announcement in July to stop carrying print newspapers in company-owned stores, Starbucks spokesperson Sanja Gould said, We are always looking at what we offer our customers in stores and making adjustments to our portfolio based on changing customer behavior.

At that time, Jordan Cohen, speaking on behalf of The New York Times, downplayed the impact of the change.

Although disappointed by the decision, were confident that given our wide retail distribution, readers will have no trouble finding The New York Times for sale at nearby outlets, said Cohen.

Tribune Publishing, owner of the Chicago Tribune, is among those participating in the special promotion.

This test program enables Starbucks customers across the country to sample our award-winning journalism,” said Mark Campbell, chief marketing officer at Tribune Publishing, in a statement. “We are implementing many initiatives to expand our digital readership and subscriptions, and are excited about this partnership.

Insider Take:

While not an ideal replacement to offering print newspapers in stores, Starbucks is throwing customers and publishers a bone. Customers can get free access to seven publications, bypassing their paywalls to read unlimited stories during their stay at Starbucks. From the publishers viewpoint, the hope is that their journalism and other content will be made available to potentially new audiences who may then become subscribers.

It seems likely that publishers could also access data on the back end of their systems to determine how many of their readers are accessing content from Starbucks. This would give them the opportunity to customize offers to those readers based on how often they access the news site and the types of the articles they read. This information alone could be prove invaluable.