ML Implode-o-Meter Goes Premium

Many HW readers — especially hedgies who profited from the recent ABX nosedive — have found an unexpected information ally in Aaron Krowne and his inimitable Mortgage Lender Implode-o-Meter. The information on his site is often well ahead of the major financial press — many of whom get their leads regarding subprime coverage from the content leaked on the site. (Trade industry press has even been forced to follow his lead in listing “imploded” lenders in an effort to keep up with the Joneses.) The wild success of the site — more than 60,000 a day visit the site, according to a Wall Street Journal article — has certainly put Krowne in the interesting position of being an industry lightning rod. Now he’s moving to capitalize on some of that success, launching a premium subscription service called Implode-o-Premium for those who really want the dirt on what’s going on at lending operations ahead of the curve. For $10/month, subscribers get access to full archives from the site, news summaries organized by stock ticker, and email notifications of pending trouble at key lenders. Krowne also says he’s about to roll out private message boards for premium members, and notes that the site’s popular free content isn’t going anywhere. But is it worth it? I recently subscribed to the service to find out. Really, really good: The email notification service — while admittedly somewhat morbid — delivers breaking-news updates on possible lender trouble before it happens (or actual lender trouble before it’s reported elsewhere). Krowne’s done a good job making himself available to industry types, many of whom have gotten comfortable sharing what they know with him — which means his site often hears rumbles of trouble long before anyone else in the industry knows it formally exists. The email alerts have — without exception so far — proven to be an uncanny predictor of upcoming trouble at any lender featured in an alert. Alerts sent late yesterday, for example, highlighted the closing of First Street Financial, alleged layoffs at Bear Stearns and an alleged round of layoffs at FRB’s First NLC lending unit. Has potential: The premium market information center, which organizes news stories around stock ticker symbols, is a concept that has a lot of potential: publicly traded companies appearing on the site’s imploded, watch, and ailing lists are listed alongside recent news about that company. For those who don’t already follow companies in the industry, or who don’t already have their Google Reader filled with company feeds, I can see how this could be a very useful tool. (Given what I cover here at HW, I’m already plugged into this information.) Another area of high potential is the promise of private message boards, which the site says will be launching soon. For those who have ever run or participated in a premium message board, you know the power that a private board can offer — and as a membership benefit, this has the potential to be the single largest reason to lay off the Starbucks one to two days each month in order to get the inside industry dirt and gossip. Time will tell how things go on the execution here. Could do without: The premium news archives section isn’t the most useful, either in terms of its user interface or in terms of what I suspect will be the business needs of most premium subscribers. I don’t usually need to look back at previous news, since I’m more concerned with where the market is headed than where it has been. The bottom line: Krowne’s obviously got more than a few industry insiders feeding him information, and he’s also been able to successfully fend off litigation threats from companies who aren’t pleased to be the topic of conversation. As long as current market conditions continue, the email alerts alone are more than enough of a reason to consider paying the $10/month it takes to access the premium service. If you have any financial interest in the industry — either as an investor or as an originator — you probably can’t afford to miss the information the alerts provide, given the uncanny accuracy I’ve seen so far. Additionally, once they’re launched, the private message boards could also be a great reason to consider paying the premium fee. The site clearly does have a limited life span, lasting only as long as the current downswing in housing does — and the mortgage markets will recover at some point. But as long as there is trouble in the mortgage markets, Implode-o-Premium has proven its worth as a great source of rumors and inside information on where that trouble is headed next. I’d love nothing more than to see Krowne make a little cash for himself after the billions of dollars his site helped make various short-selling hedge funds and their traders this year. If you’re interested in subscribing to Implode-o-Premium, click here.

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