Starbucks hit on a powerful business model when they decided to sell coffee drinks and snacks at premium prices in a nicely-maintained place that encouraged people to sit and enjoy what they called a “third place,” between work and home. Brilliant, really, because they took a commodity drink and turned it into a premium pampering experience. Others have successfully cloned this feeling in other areas. In some cases, you could say just the product being upscale is good, like Cold Stone Creamery ice cream versus your run-of-the-mill shop. But that’s not the magic, to me. The magic is the Third Place idea.
Where is that place on the web that gives us that feeling of being somewhere between work and home? Where is that place that makes us feel pampered, catered to, and more pliant to advertising? Because oh by the way, Starbucks markets and advertises the HELL out of you while you’re in their court. And yet, lots of it feels like we want it. Fine by me. If you do a great advertising job, and I feel comfy, cool!
But where is that place? What would it be like? What would we expect out of a space like this?
No WORK to Maintain
Keeping up with most social networks feels like work. I mean, it’s a conversation, and there are plenty of those out there (Seesmic, Utterz, Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce). But is there a place where we can just hang, sigh, and enjoy our cup of relaxation? (What form does digital relaxation take?)
Not a Bad Place to Do Work
Lots of us use Starbucks as a place to get online and do work. So maybe our Third Place has to have that ability, too. Is somewhere specific coming to mind? No. Me neither.
Is There a “Third Place” Opportunity for the Web?
And if so, who’s going to figure it out? I’m betting lately on Google. Here’s why:
- Google lets me use mail or chat to have conversations.
- Google lets me work on docs and other apps.
- Google lets me browse the news (especially my Reader).
- Google’s ads aren’t that intrusive.
- Google has more to gain from figuring this out even further.
What do you think?
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Photo Credit, Solar Ikon