What is it with Sirius XM Radio (NASDAQ:SIRI) shareholders?

The stock has popped sevenfold since bottoming out last month, but some of the reader comments at the end of our articles have been more venomous than jubilant.

Here's just a sample:

  • "You idiots should not be able to write an article about SIRI. The sad thing is that people who looked into SIRI and followed your FOOLISH advice, have missed out on once in a lifetime gains." -- posted after a generally favorable article on Tuesday about the company's five-bagger status.
  • "YOU NEED TO FAIL, BOOZOOS," -- followed an article on Monday where I actually recommended Sirius XM as one of five stocks under $10 to buy.
  • "You guys are really pathetic. I expect more from you guys. Grow up will you." -- followed last week's earnings report, where I criticized the company for abandoning its subscriber guidance.

The rub is that I have never considered myself an enemy of satellite radio. I've been a subscriber for nearly five years. I once recommended XM Satellite Radio to Rule Breakers newsletter subscribers, before reversing that to a sell order when the stock fell below $15 in 2006. I was one of the more vocal proponents in favor of the merger between Sirius and XM, as well as one of the loudest critics when regulators were slow with their approval.

If you're finding an upbeat article outside of a blog site or online discussion board, there's a better than fair chance that my name is on it.

You can go your own way
I'm not expecting flowers. I'm even forgiving when it comes to imperfect grammar in the blasts of negative feedback. However, sometimes I wonder whether some readers won't be satisfied until they read nothing but glowing testimonials on Sirius XM from beginning to end.

Unfortunately, that's just not likely to happen. There are some real risks -- even as the stock has been rolling in recent days -- that can't be ignored. Am I supposed to ignore them?

The biggest fear should be that history will repeat itself later this year. Sirius XM started out the year with more than $1 billion in maturing debt. It was able to refinance most of that amount, but at less attractive terms for the sake of pushing out the maturities another year or two.

Sirius XM expects to top $300 million in adjusted EBITDA this year, but most of debt interest alone will gobble up most of that figure. The company had to surrender 40% of itself to Liberty Media (NASDAQ:LINTA) last month. Will EchoStar (NASDAQ:SATS) get another 40% if it needs to bail Sirius XM out next year?

Subscriber growth is going to be another near-term concern. Does anyone really believe that Sirius XM decided to scrap its regular subscriber target updates last week because of a lack of visibility? It's mid-March: Do you really believe that Sirius XM doesn't have a read on how many net new subscribers it will gain -- or probably lose -- for the current quarter?

Searching for scapegoats
Sirius XM is already jockeying for position. It mentioned the liquidation of Circuit City twice during last week's conference call. Sirius XM has been shedding retail subscribers for several quarters, and it's pointing the finger at a chain going belly-up this month?

It can probably get more mileage by pegging this quarter's likely shortcoming on the moribund metrics out of Detroit. Ford (NYSE:F), General Motors (NYSE:GM), and Chrysler have all been smarting, and that means fewer factory-installed Sirius or XM receivers rolling off the assembly lines.

Sirius XM can also point to popular entertainment services, where only a handful of providers, including Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) and DirecTV (NYSE:DTV), have been growing lately. Yes, Sirius was growing, too, but the writing is already on the wall for a step back during at least the first quarter of 2009. 

I don't think pointing this out makes me a villain. It makes me a realist.

If you're going to knock me for tempering my enthusiasm, take the time to drum up your own worst-case scenario. If you're going to knock the Fool under the flawed premise that all we've done is talk down Sirius XM since it bottomed, then you may as well praise us for having been bearish when Sirius XM was much higher. A year ago today, Sirius was trading at $2.79.

Investors will be passionate. Speculators will be even more passionate. That's fine. Share that zeal with your fellow investors in the comment box below. It's there for you, even if you disagree with the article. But be careful out there. Represent your fellow Sirius XM investors fairly. Don't rain on your own party, especially if I'm back next week to tell you that Sirius XM's has become a 10-bagger.

Some other Sirius stories:

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is such a fan of satellite radio that he subscribes to both Sirius and XM. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story, save for Netflix. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.