Amazon to open its first non-Whole Foods grocery store in 2020

Amazon is opening its first non-Whole Foods grocery store in the L.A. neighborhood of Woodland Hills, the retailer today confirmed. The news of the new store was first reported by CNET, which spotted several job postings referencing the location including those for a zone leader, grocery associates, and a food service associate.

Unlike Amazon’s growing number of cashierless Amazon Go convenience stores, the new store will feature conventional checkout technology, says Amazon. CNBC also noted the store may be located in a former Toys R Us location at a shopping center.

Amazon declined to offer more details about its plans for the store or others like it, but did confirm it’s opening a grocery store in Woodland Hills in 2020.

The retailer’s plans to expand its grocery operations beyond its Whole Foods brand was previously reported by The Wall Street Journal in October. Amazon, the report claimed, was planning a chain of dozens of grocery stores across the U.S., beginning with sites in L.A., Chicago, and Philadelphia. Woodland Hills was mentioned as being among the first locations, along with Studio City and Irvine.

Other locations being scouted included those in the New York metro area, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Amazon’s interest in an expanded brick-and-mortar presence comes at a time when Walmart’s grocery business has been booming, with some reports claiming it now dominates those from rivals, including Amazon, Instacart, and others.

Walmart in Q2 reported 37% increase in e-commerce sales, supported by the strong growth in online grocery. Much of its success in that area can be attributed to the proximity of its stores to its customer base. With no markups on food prices (as some of its competitors do), it’s affordable to order from Walmart Grocery online, then drive to pick up the groceries — or pay a small fee to have them delivered.

Amazon’s Whole Foods, meanwhile, has long had a reputation as a more expensive store. Following the acquisition of the grocery chain, Amazon has tried to combat that notion with weekly sales and discounts for Prime members. But Whole Foods is still considered to be a more high-end store, and its prices continue to reflect that.

The new Amazon grocery stores, on the other hand, will be targeted at the mainstream consumer who typically shops from more traditional, or even value, grocery chains.

“When it comes to grocery shopping, we know customers love choice and this new store offers another grocery option that’s distinct from Whole Foods Market, which continues to grow and remain the leader in quality natural and organic food,” an Amazon spokesperson told CNET.

They said Whole Foods would continue to expand, despite the launch of the new Amazon grocery stores. Whole Foods opened 17 locations this year and has more planned, the company said.

 

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Salesforce Ventures invested $300M in Automattic while Salesforce was building a CMS

In September, Salesforce Ventures, the venture of arm of Salesforce, announced a hefty $300 million investment in Automattic, the company behind WordPress, the ubiquitous content management system (CMS). At the same time, the company was putting the finishing touches on Salesforce CMS, an in-house project it released last week.

The question is, why did it choose to do both?

One reason could be that WordPress isn’t just well-liked; it’s also the world’s most popular content management system, running 34 percent of the world’s 10 billion websites — including this one — according to the company. With Automattic valued at $3 billion, that gives Salesforce Ventures a 10 percent stake.

Given the substantial investment, you wouldn’t have been irrational to at least consider the idea that Salesforce may have had its eye on this company as an acquisition target. In fact, at the time of the funding, Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg told TechCrunch’s Romain Dillet that there could be some partnerships and integrations with Salesforce in the future.

Now we have a Salesforce CMS, and a potential partnership with one of the world’s largest web content management (WCM) tools, and it’s possible that the two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.

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ViacomCBS shakes up its content leadership teams following merger

Following the merger of CBS and Viacom announced earlier this year, the combined company today confirmed its plans to restructure its content and digital leadership teams in order to streamline operations. Among the changes, which were first reported by The Wall St. Journal on Sunday, are the departures of Comedy Central Head Kent Alterman and Viacom Networks COO Sarah Levy. Meanwhile, CBS Chief Creative Officer David Nevins will add BET to his responsibilities, while President of MTV, VH1, CMT, and Logo Chris McCarthy, will now become President of Entertainment & Youth Brands, ViacomCBS Domestic Media Networks.

This will put McCarthy in charge of Comedy Central, Paramount Network, Smithsonian Channel and TV Land brands.

Nevins, in addition to BET, will also oversee CBS Television Studios, the CBS Television Network’s Entertainment division, the Showtime Networks and Pop, The CW, and the programming of streaming service CBS All Access.

In terms of children’s content, Nickelodeon President Brian Robbins will oversee kids and young adult-focused programming as President, Kids & Family Entertainment, ViacomCBS Domestic Media Networks. That puts him back in charge of Awesomeness, which he co-founded and sold to Viacom in 2018, in addition to Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite, Nick Jr., TeenNick, Nicktoons and Nickelodeon Studios.

ViacomCBS also said that Carolyn Kroll Reidy will continue her role as President and Chief Executive Officer of Simon & Schuster, Inc. And Jim Gianopulos will continue as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Paramount Pictures, a role that includes oversight of Paramount Animation, Paramount Features, Paramount Players and Paramount TV.

The exec shuffles follow other announcements about the combinations of the two companies’ advertising sales and content distribution teams.

In addition, the company had previously announced Joe Ianniello would serve as Chairman and CEO of CBS, which includes oversight of CBS Television Network (including CBS Entertainment, CBS News, and CBS Sports), CBS Television Studios, CBS Interactive (including CBS All Access) and CBS Television Stations. However, he lost oversight of Showtime and Pop TV to President and CEO of Viacom and ViacomCBS, Bob Bakish.

Also previously reported was that CBS Interactive chief Jim Lanzone had left for Benchmark Capital, to be replaced by Marc DeBevoise. This puts DeBovise in charge of digital operations and reporting to Bakish.

Viacom Digital Studios Kelly Day will continue in her role and report to DeBevoise, the company also said today. And CBS CTO Phil Wiser will become ViacomCBS CTO.

The free streaming service Pluto TV, headed by co-founder Tom Ryan, will report to Bakish. (In news unrelated to the exec changes, Pluto TV announced today it will start streaming music videos from Vevo across 10 new channels.)

These leadership changes are meant to consolidate operations while keeping the production arms of CBS Television Studios and Viacom’s counterpart, Paramount Television, separated, The WSJ said.

Beyond the exec shuffle itself, ViacomCBS also detailed how it plans to maximize its combined assets, on the content from. The company announced this morning it’s putting into place a new “Content Council” that will work to “maximize the use of IP and talent relationships” across the company. The council will be chaired by Nevins and include all the content leaders.

“ViacomCBS will be one of the largest premium content creators in the world, with the capacity to produce content for both our own platforms and for others,” said President and CEO of ViacomCBS Bob Bakish, in a statement. “This talented team of content leaders will work together to ensure we realize the full power of our brands, our deep relationships with the creative community and our intellectual property to drive our growth as a combined company,” he added.

The Viacom-CBS merger is expected to fully close in December.

 

 

 

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Stingray-inspired spacecraft could eventually probe the atmosphere of Venus

NASA’s next Venus probe could be an atmosphere-skimming robotic stingray designed by the University of Buffalo. UB’s CRASH Lab, which is the institution’s Crashworthinesss for Aerospace Structures and Hybrids laboratory, has been selected by NASA to get early stage funding as part of a program the agency devised to come up with new and innovative concept designs.

The stringray-style spacecraft design would have ‘wings’ that can flap in the high winds of the upper atmosphere of Venus, according to UB, which would allow controlled flight that’s possible with high efficiency. Using this design, the BREEZE design (as it’s called) would be able to make its way all the way around Venus every four to six days, while powering itself back up every two to three days while spending time on the sun-illuminated side of the planet.

Each ‘day’ on Venus is longer than a year on Earth, because of the way it orbits the Sun. That means that typical spacecraft design wouldn’t necessarily be able to stay afloat and powered in the planet’s atmosphere using existing strategies for propulsion and mobility.

BREEZE is still a long way away from actually dipping in and out of Venusian clouds, but this acknowledgment and award from NASA means it’s one step closer along the path to development.

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Alibaba’s Singles’ Day sales top $38 billion

After 24 hours of frenzied buying and selling, and weeks of advertising and promotions before it, the Alibaba Group said today its sales hit another record high on Singles’ Day, the biggest shopping day on the planet.

The Chinese e-commerce giant said its 11th Singles’ Day event sold goods worth 268 billion yuan, or $38.3 billion, easily exceeding last year’s record $30.7 billion haul. Electronics gadgets and fashion items were among the most sold goods this year, company executives said.

More than half a billion people from a number of countries participate in the event, which is China’s equivalent to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Except, Singles’ Day is much larger. The five-day Black Friday clocked under $25 billion in sales last year. Alibaba Group said earlier today that it had netted its first $1 billion in sales this year in just 68 seconds.

The shopping glitz hosted a number of celebrities including Taylor Swift and Asian pop icon GEM to generate buzz. This year, the Hangzhou-headquartered firm has also focused on live-streaming via its platform, a phenomenon that has gained significant traction in China.

In a live stream, Kim Kardashian announced last week that her fragrance brand KKW will be sold on Tmall this Singles’ Day.

One figure who was missing from the action was Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba Group, who retired in September this year. In previous years, Ma has not only just delivered speech but also put on performances for employees and customers.

At a press briefing an hour ago, Alibaba Chief Technology Officer Jeff Zhang described 11.11 as an “airplane flying at turbo speed,” adding that the company has been improving the supposed engine for years.

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