Amazon’s Audible expands its original programming with new comedy series


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Over the past few years, Amazon -owned Audible has been expanded beyond audiobooks to include more original content, like the short-form audio programming offered through Audible Channels, for example. Today, the company announced a new partnership for original comedy projects, in collaboration with Lorne Michaels’ Broadway Video. The first production from this effort is “Heads Will Roll,” a program created, produced by and starring Kate McKinnon and Emily Lynne.

The production itself is a workplace comedy about an evil queen in search of peace and quiet. It will also feature performances by Meryl Streep, Tim Gunn, Peter Dinklage, Andrea Martin, Carol Kane, Audra McDonald, Aidy Bryant, Alex Moffat, Heidi Gardner, Chris Redd, Steve Higgins, Bob the Drag Queen, Esther Perel and “Queer Eye’s” Fab Five.

Following “Heads Will Roll,” the next production will be “63rd Man,” from senior SNL writer Bryan Tucker and Zack Phillips. WWE Superstar John

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Why can’t we build anything?


This post is by Arman Tabatabai from TechCrunch


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Last week, California governor Gavin Newsom announced that he was intending to aggressively scale back plans for the state’s high-speed rail system, which in its most ambitious routing would have connected Sacramento to San Diego. The immediate cause was ballooning costs, which have risen from $33 billion to $77 billion and looked likely to exceed 1.6 Zuckerbergs within a couple of years (the local CA currency, otherwise known as $100 billion).

Unlike other megaprojects, Newsom — and California — were fortunate on the timing. The costs of the project skyrocketed so much and so early, that Newsom still had the credibility and political capital to kill the project. And while a short route from Bakersfield to Merced remains on the table, I don’t expect even that route to be ultimately constructed, since no one knows where either of those cities are.

Why can’t we (i.e. America)

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Amazon is reportedly merging its China import unit with NetEase


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You’d be forgiven for not knowing Amazon has operated in China for more than a decade, but perhaps not for much longer. The company is reportedly in talks to merge its China-based import business with local peer Kaola, the cross-border shopping platform run by Chinese internet behemoth NetEase, Caijing reported (link in Chinese) on Tuesday.

The deal, which NetEase initiated and will occur through a stock swap, had been signed at the end of 2018 but negotiations had been difficult, sources told Caijing.

The timing of the marriage is interesting since Amazon recently snagged a deal with Western Union to better serve unbaked shoppers across Asia (which did not include mainland China). Amazon also connects Chinese sellers to consumers worldwide, and just last week, WorldFirst, a London-based payments firm that relies heavily on working with Amazon small and medium-sized merchants, got bought by Alibaba, a direct rival to Amazon. 

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Amazon aims to make half of its shipments carbon neutral by 2030


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Perhaps hoping to distract from Greenpeace’s latest report on its “dirty cloud,” Amazon this morning announced a new environmental commitment, focused on reducing its carbon footprint. The company says it aims to reach 50 percent of all Amazon shipments with net zero carbon by 2030.

The company is calling this program “Shipment Zero.” Details on this long-term project weren’t yet available, but Amazon says it plans to share its company-wide carbon footprint “along with related goals and programs,” at a later date. That seems to indicate Amazon will offer an update on the progress of its other sustainability goals, as well.

It’s important for Amazon to be transparent on these plans, as the size of its business means its impact to the environment, energy consumption and, ultimately climate change, is significant.

The company today runs programs including Frustration-Free Packaging and Ship in Own Container, and has a network

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Daily Crunch: Amazon scraps HQ2 plans in NYC


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The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. Did New York lose anything with Amazon’s rejection? It’s complicated.

Amazon announced yesterday that it’s taking its ball and going home, rather than dealing with mean, pushy New Yorkers (warning: not an exact quote). As a result, some outside observers are painting a picture of a city and its politicians losing out for their recalcitrance.

Jon Shieber acknowledges that there’s plenty to criticize on both sides. But for those who think New Yorkers are idiots for not giving Amazon billions in tax incentives, he has a simple message: You’re wrong.

2. Netflix office goes on lockdown over report of a potential shooter, suspect now in custody

According to the LAPD, there were no shots fired, no

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As GE and Amazon move on, Google expands presence in Boston and NYC


This post is by Ron Miller from TechCrunch


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NYC and Boston were handed huge setbacks this week when Amazon and GE decided to bail on their commitments to build headquarters in the respective cities on the same day. But it’s worth pointing out that while these large tech organizations were pulling out, Google was expanding in both locations.

Yesterday upon hearing about Amazon’s decision to scrap its HQ2 plans in Long Island City, New York City Mayor De Blasio had this to say: “Instead of working with the community, Amazon threw away that opportunity. We have the best talent in the world and every day we are growing a stronger and fairer economy for everyone. If Amazon can’t recognize what that’s worth, its competitors will.” One of them already has. Google had already announced a billion dollar expansion in Hudson Square at the end of last year.

Amazon leads $700M round in electric automaker Rivian


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Rivian, the electric automaker that debuted its first two vehicles just three months ago, has raised $700 million in a round led by Amazon .

The news follows a report earlier this week by Reuters that GM and Amazon were in talks to invest in the electric vehicle company.

“We’re inspired by Rivian’s vision for the future of electric transportation,” Amazon CEO Worldwide Consumer Jeff Wilke said in a statement. “RJ has built an impressive organization, with a product portfolio and technology to match. We’re thrilled to invest in such an innovative company.”

Rivian says it will remain an independent company. The equity round also includes participation from existing shareholders. ALJ is the company’s primary investor. Rivian and Amazon are not disclosing additional details about this investment.

Rivian is a curious company that has spent the majority of its life in the shadows. Founder and CEO RJ Scaringe launched it as Mainstream

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Urban unicorn renewal


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Three cities, three dead urban unicorn renewal projects.

In just the past few days, we’ve had Foxconn renege on Wisconsin, Amazon renege on NYC, and GE renege on Boston. Each followed the Anna Karenina principle that every unhappy economic development deal is unhappy in its own way: for Foxconn, it was trade tariffs and slowing iPhone sales; for Amazon, it was populist protests plus the usual NYC corruption; for GE, it was the reality of looking at a mirror and finding that you’re staring at a dumpster fire.

Yet, there are eerie similarities, other than the fact that I have practically lived next door to every single one of these projects (if you call Wisconsin next door to the better-looking state of Minnesota).

In each case, there was the perfect alchemy of the modern urban unicorn renewal plan. A well-known but sordid tech company paints a picture of

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New York politicians slam Amazon as it drops HQ2 plan


This post is by Brian Heater from TechCrunch


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Like the initial HQ2 plan, today’s news that Amazon will no longer be setting up shop in Queens has been met with a flood of mixed reactions. Business advocacy and real estate are decrying the retail giant’s decision to pack up and leave. I know I’ve been flooded with responses from various corners all afternoon.

Local politicians, on the other hand, appear to be placing the news squarely at the feet of Amazon .

In a statement provided to TechCrunch, Mayor Bill de Blasio took Amazon to task for the move in a customary bit of New York saltiness.

“You have to be tough to make it in New York City. We gave Amazon the opportunity to be a good neighbor and do business in the greatest city in the world,” the Mayor stated. “Instead of working with the community, Amazon threw away that opportunity. We have the best talent

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Did New York lose anything with Amazon’s rejection? It’s complicated.


This post is by Jonathan Shieber from TechCrunch


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Now that Amazon has said that it’s taking its ball and going home rather than deal with mean, pushy New Yorkers, outside observers are giving off the sense that the city (and its local politicians) are losing out for their recalcitrance.

They’re wrong.

New York City is running at about a 4.3 percent unemployment rate — higher than the national average of 3.9 percent, but a respectable number for jobs. Amazon’s promise of 25,000 jobs (high-paying jobs) may have reduced that number, but there’s no guarantee that those jobs would be filled by New Yorkers or Queens residents more specifically — and every indication that they would have gone to Amazon employees coming from somewhere else.

Remember, Amazon employees were buying real estate in Queens before the deal was even announced.

The response that New Yorkers are idiots for not giving Amazon (one of the most valuable companies

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Boston and NY share high-tech losses as GE and Amazon bail on same day


This post is by Ron Miller from TechCrunch


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Boston and New York have been sporting rivals for decades, constantly fighting over bragging rights across all four major sports, but today the two cities had something in common neither was probably hoping for. Both had major tech companies back out of massive deals on the same day.

It turns out, however, the two cities lost the deals for entirely different reasons. For NY, Amazon wasn’t pleased with the political greeting it received and decided it wasn’t going to be friendly enough for its liking. In the Boston case, it was entirely an economic decision as GE’s fortunes have changed considerably since it made its plans in 2016.

Photo: Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

In New York, Amazon announced it was canceling plans to put its HQ2 in Long Island City. Folks who bought speculative real estate are certainly bumming today, but it turns out that Amazon had

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Amazon’s NYC educational investments will continue, despite cancellation of New York HQ2


This post is by Sarah Perez from TechCrunch


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Amazon’s plans to invest in New York-area engineering training programs and other local educational initiatives are not being canceled, despite Amazon’s announcement today that it will no longer open one of its HQ2 locations in New York City. The retailer decided to end its plans for the New York headquarters after significant backlash from local politicians and citizens alike who, as Amazon put it, “have made it clear that they oppose our presence.”

The deal Amazon had brokered with New York politicians had included up to $1.5 billion in grants and tax breaks in the state, in exchange for bringing 25,000 new jobs to the NYC area.

But Amazon jobs weren’t all the company was investing in — the company had also recently said it would fund educational programs and training at New York-area high schools and colleges.

Specifically, Amazon said it would fund computer science classes in

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Amazon could launch Amazon Go store in London


This post is by Romain Dillet from TechCrunch


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Amazon has secured some retail space in the heart of London, according to a report from The Grocer spotted by Reuters. This is significant, as Amazon has yet to open an Amazon Go store outside of the U.S.

There are now 10 Amazon Go stores in the U.S. — four in Seattle, four in Chicago and two in San Francisco. Based on this pattern, the company doesn’t want to spread itself too thin. When Amazon decides on a city, the company launches multiple Amazon Go stores. Let’s see if the same thing happens in London.

Amazon Go stores are a bit different from your usual grocery store. When you walk into the store, you open the Amazon app and scan a QR code on your phone. You can then pick up whatever you want in the store and leave.

Amazon has equipped its stores with a ton of

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Amazon’s ‘Alexa Blueprints’ can now be published publicly on the US Alexa Skills Store


This post is by Sarah Perez from TechCrunch


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Last year, Amazon introduced Alexa Blueprints, a way for an Alexa device owner to create their own customized voice skills and Alexa responses without needing to know how to code. These skills — like family trivia or tips for your babysitter — could then be published for personal use. Later, Amazon added the ability to share the skills with others by way of a link. Today, Amazon is taking things a step further — you’ll now be able to publish these skills publicly to the U.S. Alexa Skills Store.

Alongside the launch, Amazon is also adding four new blueprints aimed at content creators, bloggers and organizations.

The idea with blueprints is to offer Alexa device owners a simple, online tool for building voice skills using templates you customize and edit to your liking.

Originally designed for use in the home and among families, some of the

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Report: Voice assistants in use to triple to 8 billion by 2023


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The use of voice assistants is set to triple over the next few years, according to a new forecast from the U.K.-based analysts at Juniper Research. The firm estimates there will be 8 billion digital voice assistants in use by 2023, up from the 2.5 billion assistants in use at the end of 2018.

The majority of those assistants will live on smartphones, where Google Assistant and Siri offer voice assistants to Android and iOS users, respectively.

In fact, Google already announced its voice assistant would be enabled on a billion devices as of last month, thanks to its integration with Android. Meanwhile, Amazon’s Alexa — which still primarily lives on smart speakers like Echo — has reached more than 100 million devices.

Juniper, however, predicts that the fastest-growing category for voice over the next several years will not be smart speakers. It will be smart TVs.

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Daily Crunch: Amazon acquires Eero


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The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here:

1. Amazon is buying home mesh router startup, Eero

It’s a pretty clear fit for Amazon as it pushes to make Alexa a feature in the connected home. The move also makes sense for five-year-old Eero — which, in spite of being early to the home mesh router game and pulling in some high-profile investors, has struggled.

If you’re an Eero owner wondering how this affects your privacy, read this.

2. LinkedIn debuts LinkedIn Live, a new live video broadcast service

Launching in beta first in the United States, LinkedIn Live will be invite-only. The plan is to start by covering conferences, product announcements, Q&As and other events led by influencers and mentors, office hours from a

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The definitive Patreon reading guide


This post is by Eric Peckham from TechCrunch


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At nearly six years old, Patreon has gone from startup to king of membership. Now an established leader in an industry that’s been flipped on its head, Patreon’s path has been anything but predictable — peppered with its share of milestones, mishaps, pivots, champions, and critics — and offers invaluable insights for founders, investors, creatives, or those looking to make sense of the new media landscape.

Since we’ve probably read almost every word written on Patreon as part for our “under-the-hood” exploration in this EC-1, we’ve compiled a supplemental list of resources and readings we believe are particularly helpful for learning the Patreon story.

Reading time for this article is about 8 minutes. Feature illustration by Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch.

I. Background: The Story of Patreon

Pedals Music Video (Announcement Video) & Behind the Scenes Video | May 2013 | In May of 2013, Co-founder and CEO Jack Conte first announced the

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Amazon is bringing its delivery Lockers to Coachella


This post is by Sarah Perez from TechCrunch


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Amazon Lockers are coming to a new location: Coachella. The retailer says it will make its storage lockers available to festival-goers, allowing them to order both in advance and same-day to have items like sunscreen, hats, phone chargers and more delivered to an on-site locker at the event at no extra charge during the festival weekends of April 12 through 14 and April 19 through 21.

Ahead of the event, Amazon will also launch a dedicated Coachella storefront on its retail site, where customers can shop festival needs in advance across categories like fashion & accessories, beauty, health & wellness, tech, and camping gear.

To use the new festival Locker system, customers will be able to select one of the Amazon Lockers at Coachella during the checkout process as the shipping address. When the package arrives for pickup, the customers will be sent an email with a barcode that they’ll

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Amazon buys Eero: What does it mean for your privacy?


This post is by Zack Whittaker from TechCrunch


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In case you hadn’t seen, Amazon is buying router maker Eero. And in case you hadn’t heard, people are pretty angry.

Deluged in a swarm of angry tweets and social media posts, many have taken to reading tealeaves to try to understand what the acquisition means for ordinary privacy-minded folks like you and me. Not many had much love for Amazon on the privacy front. A lot of people like Eero because it wasn’t attached to one of the big tech giants. Now it’s to be part of Amazon, some are anticipating the worst for their privacy.

Of the many concerns we’ve seen, the acquisition boils down to a key concern: “Amazon shouldn’t have access to all internet traffic.”

Rightfully so! It’s bad enough that Amazon wants to put a listening speaker in every corner of our home. How worried should you be that Amazon flips the switch on

👋

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[02.12.2017] The Daily Noted


This post is by Om Malik from On my Om


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Featured photo, courtesy of UnSplash.