Viewpoint: Wrong Place, Wrong Time for Product Placement

First American CoreLogic used a study in the most recent version of LoanPerformance’s Market Pulse newsletter to tout the accuracy of its new automated valuation model targeting the default industry, called ValuePoint 4 Default. In the study, the company compared the accuracy of broker price opinions to its AVM platform — and I don’t think HW readers would be shocked at all to find out that the study found that the AVM performed as good or better than BPOs in hitting “distressed property value.” What was shocking, however, was to see what’s become of the LoanPerformance newsletter. Once considered cutting edge for the industry, the LP newsletter now pushes out data that’s six months old and blatantly shills for its corporate sponsor, the First American Corp. It didn’t always used to be this way. The LP newsletter once ran credible analyses by economists at such places as Credit Suisse, JP Morgan, and elsewhere, who were looking to research important industry issues — rather than pushing out a litany of basic formulas for mean, median and standard deviation in the hopes that some x’s and y’s would make a product sales pitch look less like a sales pitch. And the data? The current issue discusses data from September 2007. That’s old hat in the current mortgage environment, where other analytics firms pump out the same deliquency and vintage trend data much more quickly. There was a time when LoanPerformance was known as the gold standard for industry analytics; looking at the current newsletter the company now puts out, it appears those halcyon days are long gone. And it’s too bad, especially given where the industry is right now: market insight is more valuable than ever before. I don’t have a problem with a company pushing its products; that’s what it exists to do. I don’t even have a problem with a company masking a sales pitch behind a branded white paper. That sort of “soft sales” approach happens all the time, and I can’t blame First American for engaging in the sort of marketing efforts that are common among any technology niche. But it feels cheap, somehow, coming from a newsletter that once had such high stature and helped put the LoanPerformance brand at the center of mortgage finance intelligence. And I think the company would have been better off recognizing what really drove the newsletter’s original readership and its presence — the halo effect of that sort of credibility would have done more for First American’s business development efforts than anything else that could be done with a newsletter like this one. Instead, I think this sort of effort actually ends up hurting the Core Logic brand. There are plenty of other firms out there that are putting out their own newsletters today — and I think the lesson of First American and Loan Performance should be front and center for anyone attempting to use an industry newsletter to gain meaningful market reach.

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