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Starbucks boosts mobile loyalty program with New York Times content

Starbucks is expanding its partnership with The New York Times to bring top daily articles to its mobile application users and reward loyalty members with points when they purchase print and digital subscriptions, reflecting the growing importance of top-notch content for merchants on mobile.

While the beverage giant has previously tapped The New York Times to bring free content to its customers, this marks the first time Starbucks is integrating the partnership with its loyalty program, which currently boasts 10 million members. Coffee fans will likely enjoy reading the publisher’s material each morning, which will certainly boost subscription revenue for The New York Times as it attempts to navigate the mobile space while further boosting Starbucks loyalty program.

“This deal with Starbucks is one of number of recent moves we’ve made to continue to expand the reach of our journalism and potentially reach new readers and subscribers,” said Linda Zebian, director of corporate communications at The New York Times, New York. “We hope the app users find Times journalism to be informative, thought-provoking and entertaining and we hope they become regular Times readers.”

Elevated digital experience
Starbucks consumers who do not have its mobile app downloaded on their smartphones have a new incentive to do so, as they will now be able to access top news of the day as well as select other pieces concerning important economic, social and political issues, courtesy of The New York Times.

This segment of the branded partnership is expected to roll out in the first half of 2016. The New York Times’ daily and weekend briefings will be sent to My Starbucks Rewards members via the beverage marketer’s app.

Starbucks is also planning to recommend additional articles from different media sources in the future, highlighting a perfect marriage between on-the-go caffeine fans and those who enjoy reading the news over a morning coffee.

The two companies have previously joined forces for cross-marketing opportunities.

In April 2014, Starbucks’ My Starbucks Reward members could receive 12 weeks of access to the New York Times’ NYT Now mobile application (see story). The brands also teamed up in 2013 to offer consumers connected to Starbucks’ Wi-Fi access to 15 free daily news stories.

Many Starbucks bricks-and-mortar stores also carry The New York Times newspapers for customers to purchase.

The partnership makes perfect sense, as the Times’ content will likely appeal to older demographics familiar with the publication, and may find new fans in younger consumers searching for a go-to news source on mobile.

Linking mobile loyalty
The New York Times is hoping to ramp up its subscription sales, which have been flagging due to the public’s declining interest in print publications, by tapping Starbucks’ loyalty platform.

My Starbucks Rewards members will now be able to receive Stars, which count as points, by making purchases through other companies, including The New York Times. Therefore, consumers who are on the fence about committing to a paid print or digital subscription may be swayed to do so after learning they will be on their way to a free Starbucks beverage or snack with a Star boost.

Starbucks has a similar deal with music streaming service Spotify. However, Spotify recently announced it is teaming up with competitor Dunkin’ Donuts to sponsor a summer concert series and bring Dunkin’ fans custom content from the shows on a microsite,

Starbucks’ partnership with The New York Times has the unique potential of being able to attract both older and younger customers, possibly paving the way for other food and beverage marketers to leverage news content from publishers that are making the shift toward mobile devices.

“We hope to expand the reach of Times journalism even further to new groups of readers who may not yet be regular readers of The Times,” Ms. Zebian said. “We also hope that we can perhaps turn some of those new readers into paying subscribers.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York