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Starbucks to woo customers with free online “newspapers”

What’s the best part of spending a few hours in a coffeeshop alone? It’s the chance to read free papers isn’t it?

This week’s news that Starbucks will offer free wifi to customers comes with an interesting adjuct – they will also offer free content from paid-for sites like the Wall Street Journal and New York Times.

Free content…

Here in London, traditional print media has been flipped on its head by the arrival of freesheets.

First Metro, a morning paper, then two competiting evening papers – London Lite and thelondonpaper. The latter two have since closed, thanks to an aggressive move by the Evening Standard, owners of the Lite – turning the formerly paid-for paper into a freesheet, effectively giving away much higher quality content.

And this week the Standard announced that they were on target to turn a profit for the first time – not bad for a company that has a projected loss of £30m last year.

So print newspapers are boosting readership and ad revenue by giving away content – sounds a lot like the last 10 years of online news sites doesn’t it? Except now online media is starting to go the other way. The Times will start charging readers for access to its digital editions from early July, the Wall Street Journal already does.

And so Starbucks will blur the boundaries, as they give away “free copies” of these paid-for sites.

Coffee houses were where the first newspapers were born, I think it’s great that this legacy lives on into the digital age.

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