Why news companies should go into the Internet cafe business

By Steve Outing

Today’s tip is, perhaps, a bit bizarre. But don’t dismiss it out of hand! There’s some serious logic to why newspapers and local news organizations might want to open up coffee shops. Seriously.

Credit for this idea goes to Greg Harmon, a media consultant with Belden Associates. He’s pushing the idea to some of his newspaper clients that they should turn some unused space in their buildings into Internet cafes open to the public, as a way to connect with readers more directly and openly. Harmon explains:

“I think it would be easy enough to lease out and open areas to Starbucks or even better, invite some cool local coffee shop to locate there, put in a couple of big screen TVs like we have at airports, install a number of computers/displays with Internet access, sell or give away newspapers there and invite the public into our space.

“Editors and writers could simply wander in and talk to the public! Imagine! The space could be used some evenings for invitation-only focus groups! Imagine! Circulation people could walk in and talk to people about their use of the paper! The Publisher could talk to people who read the paper! … And remember the coffee at nearly all newspapers except the big ones is REALLY terrible!”

Yeah, it sounds a bit crazy at first blush, but actually this fits really well with current media trends. Experts have been preaching to newspapers for years to open up the conversation and interact with audiences, moving to two-way or interactive relationships with readers. This could be a great, albeit small, way to move more in that direction.

As traditional news brands’ influence and power declines, I think it makes sense to try to bolster the brand name. A co-branded newspaper-Starbucks (or Pete’s or whatever) Internet cafe could play up the traditional brand, as well as other newspaper-related brands (such as youth-oriented websites that are separate from the legacy brand).

Beyond a public Internet cafe in a newspaper or TV news office building, how about airports? I’d love to see some co-branded coffee shops there. I’m not sure Starbucks would want to dilute their branding in airports, but perhaps a No. 2 chain like Seattle’s Best would partner with media companies in order to better distinguish themselves from the Starbucks giant.

Harmon says he hasn’t convinced any clients to try this bold idea yet, but he’s hopeful.

What do you think? Good idea? Or has Harmon had too much caffeine?

Author: Steve Outing Steve Outing is a Boulder, Colorado-based media futurist, digital-news innovator, consultant, journalist, and educator. ... Need assistance with media-company future strategy? Get in touch with Steve!

12 Responses to "Why news companies should go into the Internet cafe business"

  1. albert
    albert 9 years ago .Reply

    Seattle’s Best Coffee is owned by the Starbucks Corporation.

  2. albert
    albert 9 years ago .Reply

    Seattle's Best Coffee is owned by the Starbucks Corporation.

  3. Larry Coonrod
    Larry Coonrod 9 years ago .Reply

    I got a chuckle over this: “He’s pushing the idea to some of his newspaper clients that they should turn some unused space in their buildings into Internet cafes open to the public.”

    It’s probable a great idea, but I’ve never been at newspaper that had enough unused space to open a Starbucks. At our building we’re lucky to have room for a coffee pot. Admittedly though, we do have a good size room that has unused ’80s era computers and broken film cameras, because,gee you never know when you might need them.

  4. Larry Coonrod
    Larry Coonrod 9 years ago .Reply

    I got a chuckle over this: "He’s pushing the idea to some of his newspaper clients that they should turn some unused space in their buildings into Internet cafes open to the public."

    It's probable a great idea, but I've never been at newspaper that had enough unused space to open a Starbucks. At our building we're lucky to have room for a coffee pot. Admittedly though, we do have a good size room that has unused '80s era computers and broken film cameras, because,gee you never know when you might need them.

  5. Steve Outing
    Steve Outing 9 years ago .Reply

    Albert: Thanks for pointing out the error. I changed the item to remove evidence of me not keeping up with the coffee business. :)

  6. Steve Outing
    Steve Outing 9 years ago .Reply

    Albert: Thanks for pointing out the error. I changed the item to remove evidence of me not keeping up with the coffee business. :)

  7. […] idea was reaffirmed again this morning when I read Steve Outing’s post at GrowingYourNewWebsite.com. He says credit for the idea actual goes to a media consultant with […]

  8. […] in your local community, or something like that. For Steve Outing, the newsroom as a cafe is a place for your people to connect so that you can have greater access to your community. Both of these are pieces of a bigger picture that’s been stewing in me for a couple of […]

  9. […] in your local community, or something like that. For Steve Outing, the newsroom as a cafe is a place for your people to connect so that you can have greater access to your community. Both of these are pieces of a bigger picture that’s been stewing in me for a couple of months; […]

  10. […] Steve Outing: Why news companies should go into the Internet cafe business […]

  11. coffee business guru

    Sit down in any coffee shop with a hot spot, open your laptop, tape a sign on the back of the screen that say’s I’m a reporter, have something interesting to share?

    Why pay overhead to traditional media, when the coffee shops are already welcoming you into their premise in exchange for you enjoying a great latte.

    There’s no better business idea than one that is fueled by social behavior. The coffee business demonstrates this well.

  12. Dave
    Dave 6 years ago .Reply

    I had a cup of coffee (tall mocha latte) from Starbucks for the first time yesterday, and I wasn’t impressed. In fact it was somewhat bitter. Why do they hype it up so much, if I can make much better coffee at home?

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