Microfinance

The Economist writes in a survey:

What makes microfinance such an appealing idea is that it offers hope to many poor people of improving their own situations through their own efforts, says Stanley Fischer, former chief economist of the World Bank and now governor of the Bank of Israel. That marks it out from other anti-poverty policies, such as international aid and debt forgiveness, which are essentially top-down rather than bottom-up and have a decidedly mixed record.

What is now generating so much hope and excitement is less the discovery of some entirely new way to deliver financial services to the poor than the effect of the rapid innovation that has taken place in the past three decades.

TV on Small Screens

WSJ writes:

Cable-company executives believe TV on a small screen will develop into a medium that’s different from traditional television. Cellphone TVs will never replace the feel of watching a football game or a movie on a big-screen TV and probably won’t be used for extended viewing. But experts predict they will become increasingly popular for watching news clips, music videos and parts of programs specially designed for the small-screen format.

“We call them snippets,” said Brian Roberts, Comcast’s chief executive. He suggested a snippet might be just David Letterman’s “Top 10” list from the previous night or the last inning of a baseball game. “What we’re doing today is enabling that next generation of content,” he said.

Google’s Secret Sauce

Henry Blodget writes:

…over the last year Google has benefited from a fourth major growth driver: improving relevancy of paid links. The company apparently devotes massive engineering and computational efforts to analyzing which ads will be the most likely to be clicked on by any given searcher, and then displays only these. According to Saul, the system was introduced late last year (when I was concluding that U.S. growth was about to slow), and currently analyzes the user’s geographical location, the time of day, and other (unnamed) factors that might improve relevancy.

It was not news that Google determines which ads to present on factors other than the price an advertiser is willing to pay: the company has long said that an ad’s popularity with searchers is a big factor. Until now, however, I at least had not realized the extent to which this selection process is proactive rather than reactive. I also hadn’t realized that the company might present different ads for the same search based on geography, time-of-day, etc. Online media companies have been talking about both since the dawn of Internet time, but until recently, the reality has been disappointing.