Caroline Gosney



Zoom, Patreon and AI healthcare 

We’re a video conferencing company, but you can’t WFH

Work flexibility was the one of the only winners post Covid-19. Dial in from home? The beach? Your mum’s house? Heck, even the office if you wanted to (once we were all allowed back in). But the times they are a-changin. In one of the most short sighted approaches to flexibility and work/life balance, video conferencing behemoth Zoom is demanding employees return to the office. 

Zoom employees who work near one of the company’s offices are now required to trek into the office at least two days a week. Apparently they believe in a “hybrid approach” for those who live nearby. How have they defined nearby? If you live within 50 miles of one of their offices. Not a distance the average person would define as “close”.

If there aren’t a few Zoom employees not exploring their options as a result of the policy change we’d be very surprised. Given that the company laid off 1,300 employees in February after their pandemic profit plummeted it might even be prudent. Try saying that five times. 

Ultimately, this all feels really short sighted – and a complete PR fail. If we were being really cynical we’d have to wonder if the rents on those massive offices need to be justified. Might there be some pressure from landlords and government backed real estate? We may never know. But, retaining great talent may become an uphill battle for one of the pandemic unicorns. 

Patreon champions the little guys (okay and the big guys too… a bit)

At its Stream On event earlier this year, Spotify announced a partnership with Patreon that would bring subscriber-only podcasts from the creator platform to its streaming service. Launched globally it allows patrons to listen to exclusive content alongside other episodes on Spotify. If you stumble upon a show that you don’t yet support monetarily, you can get access with a few taps from the show’s page inside the streaming app. 

Patreon podcasters only need to sync their account with Spotify to get started. Afterwards, all patron-exclusive content will be on a dedicated page on their Spotify show profile. And, creators will have the option of adding promotional banners on their free episodes page to help drive subscription numbers. 

Spotify has been offering paid podcast subscriptions through its audio production platform Anchor for over two years and just like that Anchor setup, any subscriber-only Patreon podcasts that you don’t have access to will show up with a lock icon in the Spotify app. There’s also a small “paid” tag next to the publish date and runtime info. When you tap the lock, a pop up will ask if you want to hear more from the creator before sending you to their Patreon page to view subscription info. 

In a power move other big social platforms could learn from, Spotify isn’t taking a cut of subscriptions. Patreon and Spotify both explain that creators will retain “full control” over their audiences, content and revenue while using the streaming service to expand their reach. There’s no additional cost to integrate Patreon with Spotify either, and creators publishing both free and paid episodes can use the setup. 

Spotify x Patreon is giving big content energy with a brilliant step forward for large and small creators alike in supporting them to monetise their content more effectively. 

AI takes on healthcare 

Robotics and AI are having a moment and now they’re taking on healthcare. As the NHS battles to bring down waiting lists alongside strikes, a huge backlog from the pandemic and a shortage of staff, AI is being touted as a way to respond to those challenges.

Robotics has already had an impact. All kidney, prostate and bladder cancer ops are performed with robotic assistance and with the ability to do three operations a day instead of one it has transformed bed usage, brought down waiting lists and improved productivity. 

And it’s not just robotics in the operating theatre that are blazing a trail. Milton the AI penguin (yes you read that correctly) is being trialled as a hospital porter. A small army of these black and white birds help move paperwork, medicine and samples across trial sites freeing up staff time. 

Items are packed onto Milton’s back and it uses the same technology as self-driving cars to navigate safely without crashing into objects of people. If Milton does get stuck then staff can use an onboard remote control to set him right again. 

There’s a lot of scare stories out there about AI, but robotic operations that can clear waiting lists and penguin shaped robots that can pick up the slack feels like the beginning of something wonderful – freeing up healthcare staff to focus on the really important stuff.