Yet, in a funny way, that’s the kind of future suggested by Starbucks’ new partnership with The New York Times. Beginning early next year, Starbucks’ loyalty club members (of which there are millions) will be able to read the Times’ top news of the day as well as some select articles for free on the Starbucks mobile app. In effect, Starbucks becomes a kind of publisher.
“We have proudly sold millions of copies of the paper in Starbucks stores for more than a decade, and are excited to bring this experience to the next level by enabling Starbucks loyal customers to take the best of The New York Times with them wherever they go, whenever they want it,” Howard Schultz, chairman and CEO of Starbucks, said in a statement.
And yet integrating Times content into its app is more than Starbucks acting as a digital version of a print newsstand. Yes, Starbucks loyalists gain “stars” by purchasing a subscription; the “stars” will be redeemable for food and beverages at the company’s shops.
But Starbucks says it plans to add articles from other news sources over time, making its app effectively a news reader. While it’s unclear whether the stories will live natively in the Starbucks app or be accessible via some kind of proprietary link, adding Times content to its app puts Starbucks at least in the ballpark of initiatives like Facebook Instant Articles or Apple News.
The futurists never stood a chance. Even a decade ago, as publishers were wringing their hands over the death of print, who would have thought that one version of saving journalism would look like the app you also use to pay for your coffee.