Starbucks And NYT Offer A Glimpse Of One Possible Future
How do content creators get paid on the internet? Right now there are two options: advertising and subscriptions. The former is disliked by users, can be intrusive and damages the browsing experience at many sites. On the other hand the latter is incredibly difficult to get right and by limiting access to your content hurts your ability to grow.
Starbucks and the NYT have announced a partnership which may offer a third way.
In future Starbucks loyalty card members will get access to NYT articles (and other news sources further down the line) whilst NYT subscribers will get credits to their Starbucks accounts. By tying a content product and a physical product together both companies hope to profit.
For Starbucks it means more reasons to join its loyalty program and, once you're in, more reasons to choose Starbucks for your regular caffeine hit. For the NYT it means a funding source for its news service which isn't actually obstructive to users.
This kind of arrangement does rather depend on the NYT's paywall, which has the negative effect of reducing the overall potential audience for its news. Projecting into the future it also means that the NYT becomes a Starbucks news service, as its established readers waste away and new ones become harder to attract. It also means that Starbucks gains more and more of the upper hand in the relationship.
The concept of linking virtual and physical content together isn't a bad one, perhaps with some refinement it will offer a sustainable income stream for publishers.