Customers will also get free access to paid Web sites, like those of The Wall Street Journal and Zagat, free iTunes downloads and previews of not-yet-released movies and albums. They will see local content based on the coffee shop’s location, like news from Patch, AOL’s local news site, check-ins on Foursquare and neighborhood photos on Flickr.
For publishers and Web sites, the free content will serve as a marketing tool, Mr. Gillett said, letting customers sample things they might be willing to pay for later.
The digital network could also serve as a virtual storefront, Mr. Brogan said. He imagines Starbucks using it to sell songs and virtual goods, or to offer loyalty points for online shopping.
This all sounds very dot-boom-ish.