Meet today's heroes of the economic blogosphere: Chana Joffe-Walt and Kestenbaum of NPR's Planet Money. Faced with the challenge of explaining how the economy imploded, they pooled their cash and bought their very own toxic asset (i.e., part of a bond made up of bad mortgages). They plan to dissect the asset, follow its changing value, and ultimately let their audience watch the asset "die." Experts and laymen alike are delighted by the innovative project, which went public this morning. The first rave reviews:
- 'Listen to the Podcast--It Is Pretty Funny!' says finance blogger Bill McBride at Calculated Risk.
- A Fantastic Idea "You've got to hand it to the reporters over at NPR's Planet Money," says Mother Jones's Andy Kroll. "They're always cooking up clever new ways to report on the big business and economic issues of the day." He thinks this feature is perfect: the "toxic assets" are "one of the jargony words you hear bandied about but never simply defined."
- 'The Excellent Planet Money Team' Good's Andrew Price gushes over the accompanying "interactive graphic where you can see exactly what's in their troubled mortgage puree, and watch its value change as people default or pay off their loans."
- A Scientific Approach "To understand more about a deadly bacteria," writes Jonathan Parker at the Kellogg School of Management's finance department blog, "a researcher would try to isolate it in the lab, study it, dissect it, sequence its genome, etc." That's sort of what the NPR team is doing, buying a toxic asset, "studying it, dissecting it, and sequencing its genome. Their ongoing work nicely illustrates what a canonical toxic asset is." He also notes that theirs is about as toxic as toxic comes.
- 'If You Don't Listen to the Planet Money Podcast, You Should,' instructs Fast Company's Cliff Kuang. "Published twice a week, there's absolutely no better resource out there, for anyone looking for explanations about the state our world economy." He's particularly keen on their "infographic" explaining "just how bad a bet the banks made when they went crazy for bundles of subprime mortgages."