by Allison Doolittle
Happily enjoying my venti coffee frappucino, I ponder the strange phenomenon where I find myself. Here I am, a poor college freshman: eating Ramen noodles, rationing EagleBucks and yet somehow willing to slap down four dollars to satisfy my craving for sugar and caffeine. But, is that all I crave? Are sugar and caffeine really the primary reasons why junkies like myself spend so much time and money at their local Starbucks? Why not chug a Mountain Dew? No. That just wouldn’t satisfy most of us. I’m convinced that Starbucks offers a whole lot more than a dizzying array of delicious coffees and drinks (although even the caliber of their coffee is contested by some).
Starbucks serves as a key locale for media convergence. Customers are encouraged to sift through a newspaper, hum along to the XM satellite radio station, and buy a feel-good family DVD, Akeelah and the Bee. One might buy the new CD from their favorite artist or purchase a CD with a collection of a certain musician’s favorite songs. Starbucks stores recently employed innovative technology in their “HearMusic” machines so that customers could select songs to make a personal mix of music that would come out as a finished CD- complete with an artsy case -- several minutes later. However, this venture proved to be unsuccessful as machines were pricy, unreliable, and less popular than expected. Still, Starbucks continues to creatively expand the media opportunities at its local stores.
Clearly, these types of “buy me” media cost customers money and generate profits. Less obviously, Starbucks’ B.Y.O.M. policy (Bring Your Own Media) has also hugely added to its commercial success. Customers are welcome to bring books to read but also iPods, blackberries, laptops, cell phones, etc. These allow Starbucks customers to bring their work and communication to Starbucks. This means more customers and that these customers will stay for longer (which may cause them to bring a friend, grab another latte, or a Times). It also lends to the community-feel of each Starbucks.
Right now, I’m actually sitting in the Tenleytown Starbucks (in Washington, D.C.), people-watching, coffee-frapuccino-sipping and typing this blog entry. For the media, the atmosphere, or the delicious drink I crave, I’ll be back again to spend another four bucks at Starbucks.
(Photo courtesy of blitzkrieg from morgueFile.)
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