Starbucks is about to find out.

Today, the company announced their strategy to counter the growing encroachment of fast food rivals vying for their coffee business: To stand out, Starbucks pushes coffee know-how | Consumer Products | The plan includes holding coffee tastings in its North American stores. As reported here earlier this summer, this is likely an extension of the trial education programs Starbucks staged in places like Michigan.

The plan also includes the launch of a series of podcasts about coffee on its Web site — with the first show scheduled to “air” Tuesday, Sept. 5th. Yes, Starbucks is now following the lead of the mindless marketing lemmings at Eight O’ Clock Coffee and other unnotables for buying the blog/podcast hype whole hog. If only enough mainstream consumers were using the Web in 1996, these blindly trend-following product marketing strategies would have given us the same kind of press releases — but instead announcing obligatory 3-D Web sites programmed in VRML.

I can barely make the time to listen to occasional parts of, and here I’m dangerously obsessed enough with coffee to put up a site with almost 500 local café reviews. I simply cannot comprehend how Starbucks believes that coffee drinkers will commit precious media consumption time each week to listen to a merger between college radio and a Starbucks infomercial. And as CBS MarketWatch noted today on Starbucks’ sample podcast, “To judge by the first ‘sip’, it’s going to take a lot of coffee to keep me awake listening to a full show.” (Starbucks’ lukewarm podcast plan.)