Most coffee shops look down on customers using a purchased cup of coffee as an excuse to take up a table and surf the internet all day. But Starbucks will soon be encouraging it.

The coffee chain recently started offering free WiFi in its shops. And soon that will come complete with Starbucks specific programming. Rather than compete with McDonald’s on the coffee front, it looks like Starbucks is hoping that its tech partnerships will help bring customers through the front door.

Customers who access the internet from Starbucks locations starting this fall will be shown a homepage with a slew of Starbucks exclusive content. Included will be free access to to the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and The New York

The Starbucks Digital Network will have six different online channels: News, Entertainment,
Wellness, Business & Careers, My Neighborhood and Starbucks.

Some features include Zagat ratings for nearby restaurants and free iTunes downloads. Starbucks’s Vice President of Digital Ventures Adam Brotman promises that there will be access to “more exciting Apple stuff” in
the future. They are also partnering with Yahoo to get some of that company’s content — and potentially grow viewership for the portal.

With McDonald’s moving into the coffee space, Starbucks is dealing
with more competition than ever. The company’s stock has been fairing
poorly, and the chain has been forced to close stores recently, which is
an abrupt turnaround from its once ever-expanding global brand.

Starbucks’ new network is “free, one-click Wi-Fi” and will be available at all of the chain’s US stores, which total over 6,800. 

Starbucks may have popularized
specialty coffee drinks in America, but in 2010, that notion is
commoditized. Here, Starbucks is trying to add value to its coffee
experience and leverage its reputation as a more upscale coffee brand. If media goes behind a paywall and Starbucks plans to
provide its frequent customers free access to that content, it could
make iteslf very useful again.

But does Starbucks have the space to get its users hooked on digital content? Most cafe owners hold tables at a premium. And while providing free digital access to the morning paper might be a good way to increase customer loyalty, if all (or even a majority) of their customers takes them up on it, they will effectively ruin the in-store experience. But Starbucks isn’t worried about that.  As Brotman tells Mashable:

“This is
just the beginning of how we plan to leverage this channel.”

Starbucks, Mashable