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Inside Amazon (Dec 7th, 2018)

1. Amazon is reportedly aiming to expand its cashierless Amazon Go stores to airports in the U.S. Public records show Amazon has been in discussions with at least two airports in California to bring the technology to its terminals. Amazon Go could solve the problem of customers rushing to get to their gate, but for Amazon it could be a brand-boosting endeavor. “Think about how you can expose your brand,” one person familiar with the discussions said. “You’ll be able to build broad awareness just being in a dozen of the best airports.” — REUTERS

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2. Amazon has hired the Democratic consulting firm SKD Knickerbocker and lobbying shop Greenberg Traurig to help with image and legal obstacles for its second headquarters in New York City, according to The Wall Street Journal. The company is hoping to make inroads after severe criticism from key New York politicians, particularly in the City Council. “We are excited to work with New Yorkers over the coming months and years to bring a new Amazon headquarters to Long Island City and help support the community,” an Amazon spokeswoman said. “We are at the beginning of this process and we are going to be all hands on deck to ensure we continue to learn about the neighborhood and the community.” — VICE

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3. Amazon will begin penalizing third-party sellers over packages that do not comply with its safety requirements —something the company says is expected to improve warehouse efficiency. According to an email sent to sellers, penalty fees will apply for failure to comply with the new requirements that include packing aerosol products to a certain specification. "This means new fees for Amazon sellers that are not very careful about following Amazon's guidelines," said Paul Dworianyn, founder of Awesome Dynamic Tech Solutions, which helps Amazon merchants. "Amazon is taking a more proactive and transparent approach to show sellers where they may be falling short." The policy changes come as Amazon is under increasing scrutiny for safety hazards in its warehouses. — CNBC

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4. Amazon is still winning the online grocery wars, but its competitors are quickly gaining traction, according to a new survey by RBC Capital Markets. “Overall this [survey] data largely helps confirm the Amazon company thesis; growing adoption of online channels for what is arguably the single largest consumer spend category, and Amazon holds a demonstrably leading position amongst online grocery channels,” RBC said. Last year 74 percent of online grocery shoppers turned to Amazon, but that number took a plunge in 2018 to only 38 percent as Walmart/Jet.com and Instacart stole some of the market share. — YAHOO

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5. Amazon has launched a new program—called Alexa Answers—that will provide crowd-sourced answers (from customers) to most-frequently asked questions that Alexa is ill-equipped to answer. "While Alexa can answer the vast majority of questions customers are asking every day," Bill Barton, Amazon's vice president of Alexa Information, wrote in a blog post, "every once in a while, customers throw curve balls at us with various questions like 'Where was Barbara Bush buried?' or 'Who wrote the score for Lord of the Rings?' or 'What's cork made out of?' or 'Where do bats go in the winter?'" — ENGADGET

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6. Third-party sellers on Amazon's platform are growing increasingly anxious about policy changes the company makes often with no explanation or recourse. Many of them report that Amazon keeps them so busy that they often don't have the resources to develop other selling channels. “Every year, Amazon introduces changes that shift work onto the sellers’ shoulders. As a third-party seller, you always have to be thinking one step ahead: What do these changes mean to me? How do I compete?” said Fred Killingsworth, founder of the Amazon consultancy Hinge and a former business development manager at Amazon. — DIGIDAY

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7. Amazon Prime Video has landed eight Golden Globe nominations for “Homecoming,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and the limited series “A Very English Scandal.” Although Netflix took the top spot among digital platforms across all categories, Amazon beat the streaming giant in TV categories.  — TECHCRUNCH

8. Whole Foods is bringing back its popular "12 Days of Cheese" sale, which highlights a different artisan cheese each day with a 50 percent off discount for that day only. It runs December 12 through December 23. — THRILLIST

9. WNYC says it will not refer to Amazon's Long Island City location as HQ2. “You can’t have 2 headquarters, let alone 3...It’s a ‘campus,’ ‘office hub,’ ‘major office complex,'” said Matthew Schuerman, an editor at the station. — GEEKWIRE

10. Amazon needs a solid pipeline to feed its HQ2 in Queens and the president of LaGuardia Community College says two-year institutions are in a particularly good position to do it. — CRAIN'S NEW YORK

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This newsletter is written and curated by Philadelphia-based freelance journalist Allen McDuffee.

Editing team: Lon Harris (editor-in-chief at Inside.com, game-master at Screen Junkies), Krystle Vermes (Breaking news editor at Inside, B2B marketing news reporter, host of the "All Day Paranormal" podcast), and Susmita Baral (editor at Inside, recent bylines in NatGeo, Teen Vogue, and Quartz. Runs the biggest mac and cheese account on Instagram).

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