Starbucks adds free Web content perk

Associated Press / October 20, 2010

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NEW YORK — Starbucks is adding a venti-sized dollop of free books, news, and entertainment to its Internet offerings starting today.

The coffee chain’s new digital network promises customers free e-books, movies, and other exclusives, including free access to some paid websites such as The Wall Street Journal, and is meant to get customers spending more on drinks and content they buy through the site.

The move comes as Starbucks faces steep competition from McDonald’s Corp. and other fast-food chains pushing increasingly fancy coffee drinks. But it also offers Starbucks a chance to make money by selling songs, e-books, and other material to customers who linger over its free Wi-Fi, which saw 30 million log-ins last month.

Starbucks Corp. started offering free wireless Internet access in July. The new network is a partnership with Yahoo.

Most of the free content — from movies to books — can be read or viewed only in Starbucks. When customers buy the content, say an e-book, Starbucks takes a cut of the sale.