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Lyft’s new bus line for people who hate buses

The white knights of ridesharing are testing out a new service in San Francisco and Chicago called Lyft Shuttle, which operates along fixed routes just like a bus line.

Wait, you mean I still have to wait at a stop, get dropped off 5 blocks from my destination, AND feel obligated to small talk with strangers for 20 minutes???

SIGN. US. UP.

Pricing is still a mystery, but Lyft says Shuttle fares will be fixed at an ambiguously low price based on time and location. Somewhere slightly cheaper than Line (and unaffected by surges), but (we assume) slightly more expensive than a bus ticket.

But don’t expect a huge rectangular box lined with seats.

Drivers will apparently still use their own cars and get paid their normal commissions. Still unclear whether they’ll just be riding along waiting for hails, or stopping automatically every few minutes…

Kind of like… a regular bus?

Yes, kind of, except it’ll only run during typical commuting hours (from 6:30-10am and 4-8pm) and probably not have gum everywhere you put your hands.

The English language is literally changing

 

The closest people we have to actual grammar police, the American Copy Editors Society, recently held their annual word nerd conference to discuss and update our language for modern times.

The big news? ‘They’ officially replaced ‘he’ as the default pronoun for a person of an unknown gender.

Wait, so who makes the rules on English?

Good question, diligent student. There are a few ways English conventions can be changed.

The annual meeting of ACES (sweet acronym, guys) is one of them. It’s where rule updates to the AP Stylebook are often announced, like dropping the hyphen in “email,” and lowercasing “internet.”

Merriam-Webster is another authority adding words to keep up with the youths. They recently added words such as “photobomb,” “humblebrag,” and “ghosting.”

Ghost (verb): to disappear off all social communications, only to emerge via text weeks later with a “sorry work’s been crazy…” disclaimer.

But it’s not them doing the changing, it’s us

Merriam Webster says that, of the criteria needed to add a new word, frequency of use is most important. In other words, if you keep up those urban dictionary annotations, they might one day become official (totally rad).

But reader beware, you could be playing with fire (not rad).

After we literally wouldn’t stop misusing the word, Merriam Webster added a second definition to match the exaggerated meaning.

The internet was understandably outraged. Users commented “the dictionary is literally wrong”, and “this is literally the stupidest thing I’ve ever read.”

Bullish, or just bull?

Yesterday, the SEC filed charges against a slew of business news publications for “fraudulent promotion of stocks.” And we’re not talking some rinky dink LiveJournal blogs — these were big, respected sites like Seeking Alpha, Forbes, TheStreet, Yahoo Finance, and The Motley Fool.

The organization found 250 articles with bullish predictions about biotech stock falsely claiming that the authors were unpaid by the industry when, in fact, the companies had paid contributors for their favorable analyses.

Thus far, the SEC’s settled with 17 out of 27 entities, slapping them with fines as much as $3m for a total of $4.8m in penalties.

So, how much did these publications know?

Apparently, not much. But that doesn’t mean they’re not responsible for spreading propaganda.

As many writers can attest, contributor posts are a bit of a wild west with regards to editorial oversight.

Despite the disclaimer that they were unsponsored, many of the articles in question were published without any editorial review, from authors like “Equity Options Guru,” “Trading Maven,” and “Wonderful Wizard.”

Moral of the story: Don’t invest money based on one blog article

The SEC is warning investors not to make financial decisions based solely on articles they find on investment research websites. Especially those written by someone who refers to themselves as a wizard.

Can’t ghost The Ghost

Ever see one of those tacky corporate-sponsored Snapchat filters with snowflakes falling over red Starbucks cups and wonder, “Does this really work on anyone?

Well, if you’re an advertiser, now you’ll know.

The Ghost unveiled a feature (creatively named “Snap to Store”), that uses Foursquare location data to tie filter users to their in-store visits.

And results seem… profitable

In the beta test, Snapchat reported 42k people visiting Wendy’s the same week they sponsored a spicy fresco chicken sandwich filter. Muy picante.

And it kind of makes sense. Over 66% of Snapchat’s 158m users open the app while at the mall, and 80% while at a restaurant — both prime inception times for advertisers.

But because Snapchat doesn’t collect background data, it can only track users who opened the app while at, say, Wendy’s.

This is them playing ketchup

Snapchat has resisted hyper-targeting users but, with a struggling stock price, the move is an attempt to keep up with Facebook and Groupon, which have been doing this for years.

Moral of the story? When your competition is stealing users by blatantly copying your product, sometimes it’s ok to copy back.

Come for the cabinets, stay for the meatballs

Or just come for the meatballs like the 30% of Ikea Food customers who now visit the store just to eat.

A year after opening the first Ikea in 1958, founder Ingvar Kamprad built the first sit-down restaurant inside the furniture store, featuring fan favorites like their signature Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes, and lingonberry jam.

See, Kamprad knew that when you feed people they stay longer and are more likely to make a decision before leaving the store. Because Kamprad is smarter than us.

But, while the food was always intended to be a sofa seller

It’s expanded into much more than just a side gig — generating $1.8B in 2016.

A pittance next to their total $36.5B revenue last year but, compared with other fast-casual chains, it’s pretty impressive. For example, Jimmy John’s did about $2B in sales last year while 5 Guys clocked in at $1.3B.

And, by latching onto trends of ethically-sourced ingredients and healthier options, it’s become one of their fastest-growing segments (up 20% from 2013). Heck, the introduction of chicken and vegan meatballs alone boosted sales 30% in “the meatball family.”

Get ready for standalone restaurants and cafés

They’re envisioning them like their in-store eateries, divided into different areas to naturally attract different kinds of shoppers from a play area with adjoining dining section for parents, to private zones for a more “refined” experience.

Makeup is one of retail’s lone survivors

 

*Cue movie trailer voice* In a world where big box department stores must fight to survive, and brick-and-mortar retailers continue to cannibalize themselves… One industry is sittin’ pretty…

The $57B global cosmetics market is one of the few retail verticals experiencing healthy growth, and, as department stores close up shop left and right, brands like Sephora and Ulta are actually expanding their footprint.

More specifically, Sephora already has nearly 1.8k stores worldwide, Ulta’s adding 100 to their 1k locations this year.

Because, for every dollar consumers spent at department stores…

They spent $2.3 at health and beauty retailers. Ulta’s Q4 same-store sales grew 16.6% from last year’s numbers, making it their 8th straight quarter of double-digit brick-and-mortar sales growth.

To put that in context, the other 100 retailers in the S&P Retail Select Industry Index fell 1% in Q4 on average.

Which makes sense — makeup is just more conducive to in-person purchases than, say, appliances or electronics (gotta see if you can pull off that matte coral lip stain IRL, amirite?).

As a result, Ulta’s shares are up 70% over the past year, outpacing even Amazon. Fun fact: Amazon also owns makeup brands like Maybelline, L’Oréal, Revlon, and Covergirl.

But Bezos isn’t batting an eyelash

Although Sephora & Ulta are hanging on to their foothold with celebrity partnerships and brand exclusivity, Amazon still brought in $2.5B in beauty sales last year, up 47% from 2015 — that’s about half of Ulta’s entire annual revenue.

We’re betting they won’t be sharing their beauty secrets any time soon.

Spotify goes back on their word

 

After months of whining that exclusive music deals hurt fans, Spotify is partnering with the Universal Music Group to do, well, exactly that.

The new deal between the music giants allows some UMG artists to place their albums exclusively on Spotify’s premium tier for 2 weeks before everyone else hears it.

And if you’re one of Spotify’s 50m freeloaders who thinks “it’s just 2 weeks, big whoop”, then consider this: today would be the first time you’d be hearing Drake’s More Life.

(Plus you’d have gone 14 painful days of not knowing what “blem” meant.)

With big expectations come big responsibilities

Spotify’s been looking to IPO for some time but, despite doing $2.2B in revenue last year, the company still isn’t profitable. Not the most attractive investment…

The big driver of this by far is royalties (which artists like T-Swift say still aren’t enough). By granting exclusive access for their premium users, Spotify hopes to negotiate better licensing rates with record companies.

Valued, loyal customer better have my money

Spotify was already the last defender of freemium streaming – compared with subscription only rivals like Apple Music and Tidal.

The exclusivity model is the first major move towards converting users to paid, which, to no one’s surprise, drives the vast majority of their revenue $10/month at a time.

And if you’re altogether tired of tracking who you can stream where, there’s always vinyl. Apparently gramophone records are having their best year since 1985.

The key to winning Indian e-commerce?

Losing big. FlipKart, the “Amazon of India,” made headlines yesterday when it announced a funding round of $1.4B from big hitters like eBay, Microsoft, and Chinese investment firm Tencent.

Which seems great, until you consider the company lost $800m last year.

Apparently, e-commerce in India is a tough nut to crack and FlipKart’s main competitors, Snapdeal and Amazon India, both lost over $450m last year as well. So, if online sales in India are a big money pit, why do people keep investing?

It’s all in the name of scaling

As Amazon has already shown at home by owning 43% of all U.S. online retail sales, it pays to be top dog.

And, considering India has the world’s fastest growing, soon-to-be $48B online retail market, investors are pouring money into marketing and logistics, hoping to beat out the competition.

However, the race to the bottom can’t go on indefinitely, and experts predict the next few years will determine who’ll come out on top.

But when you come at the king, you best not miss

It’s hard to imagine beating Amazon at its own game.

While Flipkart’s parsed together $4.65B over several rounds of funding, Bezos allocated $5B in Amazon revenue with a few strokes in an Excel sheet.

However, Flipkart does have a number of recent, strategic advantages in its latest round of funding, including purchasing eBay’s India business and getting the necessary capital to buy struggling competitor Snapdeal.

And like kids teaming up on the playground to fight a bully, this is also the largest India deals by Microsoft and Tencent, illustrating the growing international support for chipping away at Amazon.

Apple’s oval orchard

Well circular, to be precise. After 4 years of teaser videos and leaked blueprints, Apple plans to open its $5B donut-shaped “Apple Campus 2” in Cupertino this month.

And, while the office itself is a feat of engineering (requiring around 6km of glass for its rounded walls) — it only accounts for about 20% of the 2.8m ft2 campus.

The other 80%? Landscaping including grass, shrubs, flowers, and… about 9k trees. Unfortunately for Apple’s Chief Arborist David Muffly (yes, that’s his real title), they’re not the only ones in the market for some green.

It’s a no-hoes-barred battle of the branches

San Francisco’s Transbay Transit Center, a $2.3B bus terminal under construction, still needs 469 trees for its 5.4 acre park.

Meanwhile, Apple is about 3k short, so they’re calling dibs on the best trunks from nurseries across the Pacific Northwest by marking trees with locking tags so no one else can swipe ‘em.

But, unlike the TTC, which is seeking rare specimens like Chinese elms and “a single Chilean wine palm,” Apple’s main focus is its orchards.

Everyone’s freaking out about fruit

When they’re not perfecting the “beveled edges” of the next iPhone, employees will be able to eat persimmons, cherries, apricots, and — of course — apples right off the tree, as they stroll leisurely across campus.

That is, if they get bored of the other 20%, which features a $70m fitness center, 90k ft2 cafeteria, and a thousand-person underground auditorium for product launches — all run on 100% renewable energy via one of the largest corporate solar arrays in the world.

Not to mention the office itself, a never-ending circle that encloses the man-made forest and houses 13k engineers and designers.

“A circle, huh? This shape sounds strangely familiar…”

Well, yeah, it looks like the iPhone home button.

Oh, but you’re thinking of The Circle, a Tom Hanks and Emma Watson thriller debuting this month based on a David Eggers book about a giant tech company with a circular HQ that collects way too much data and looks perfect from the outside but is actually evil?

“Yeah, it’s cool. I’ll hang back at the old office…”

Turnstyle: Like taking emails from a baby

Yelp has acquired Turnstyle Analytics, a marketing company that tricks lures people into giving companies their email addresses when they login to their free wifi network, for $20m.

With this acquisition, Yelp can offer businesses the ability to track when users visit their stores and send them loyalty rewards for repeat trips. And as much as we all hate promotional emails, that sweet, sweet internet hookup is hard to resist… especially if you’re at the end of your data cycle.

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