Facebook is now surpassing Google in page views, and why not? Facebook, featuring your friends, is a lot more fun, a way lot more interactive, than Google. Let's face it: Social networking is where it's at.
But that's not the end of the story. Let's begin with the obvious: Before there were social networks, online, there were social networks, in the real world. That is, you had friends that you hung out with. You know, in playgrounds, in parlor rooms, or in the workplace. But there were other places, too--such as clubs and coffeehouses. People have been hanging out in coffeehouses, of one kind or another, since there was coffee--see pic above.
And of course, there is news, too, as a social vehicle. Everyone talks about the news; not just politics, but sports, weather, anything that is, well, new--or at least interesting.
So we can see three different hubs for news-hounds, as well as the merely social: online social networks, real-world social networks, and news networks, in the sense of people gathering together to chew on the news, one way or another.
Should those different hubs stay different? Or should one kind of hub be pre-eminent, because it shows the most "coolness"?
Right now, Facebook is cool. But Starbucks is cool, too.
As TCG has noted, Starbucks is entering the social-networking field, with a very ambitious WiFi program for its 16,000 stores. Free WiFi, which makes it competitve with such freebie services as Google and Facebook.
And what's Starbucks going to show on those networks? Nobody knows exactly, although we can assume that it will be a mix of news, entertainment, and maybe even a kind of institutionalized schmoozing and flirting service. (Why should the online version of Starbucks network be different than the real-world kind?) In other words, Starbucks could be reaching into all the stuff that cable shows now, plus all the stuff that social networks offer, too, indirectly, through their members.
Moreover, who's to say that we won't wake up one day and discover that Facebook is offering programming of one kind or another? Who knows--maybe Facebook will even set up coffee shops, because that would be a way to monetize those 500 million people. It's a lot easier to monetize customers by charging them $4 for a latte than it is to charge advertisers a penny or two per pageview--especially when other online companies figure out Facebook's tricks.
Of course, if Facebook were to set up coffee shops, it would find itself competing with . . . Starbucks.
And so we come to the point here: Starbucks can become a coffee shop with some news--attention Cable Gamers, because those 16,000 stores could turn into 16,000 little coffeehouses + news shows of some kind--and entertainment. And, maybe, a social network. And it seems to be heading that way, as this promo, seen on TheWrap.com suggests. The Wrap is pitching a conference in LA next month, and one of the starring attractions is none other than Starbucks' CEO, Howard Schultz. He will be talking, he says, about social media. Well yes he will. And who knows what else he will have on his mind, even if he doesn't spill everything at this one conference. Schultz is, after all, just getting started.