You don't need to whip out a Monopoly board to play the banker. Financial rate publisher Bankrate (NASDAQ:RATE) knows all about playing bankers, pitting one against the other to serve up a collection of sponsored offers. And if we go by this morning's first-quarter report, it's clear that Bankrate is winning the game.

Earnings per share doubled to $0.28 at Bankrate, or $0.33 before stock-based compensation. The profitability explosion came despite a more modest 12% gain in revenues.

Don't hold the soft top-line advance against Bankrate. Two important factors are tugging it in different directions. The old-school print publishing business fell by 24%. However, the bread-and-butter online publishing side -- which now accounts for 86% of Bankrate's business -- grew at a healthy 22% clip.   

Bankrate claims that the mortgage market slowdown and the subprime lender collapse that has obliterated New Century Financial and dogged companies like NovaStar (NYSE:NFI) and Accredited Home Lenders (NASDAQ:LEND) hasn't hurt its business.

The numbers bear that out. Page views for the quarter are up by 15%. Hyperlink revenue, where financial institutions pay Bankrate to have the institutions' rate listings on the Bankrate site link directly to them, is up by 33%. Tough markets find companies hungry to find an edge anywhere they can, and being featured more prominently on is a high priority.

Bankrate helps educate consumers while generating leads for financial service providers. That's a pretty good business. It works for The Knot (NASDAQ:KNOT) with wedding services. It works for IAC/InterActiveCorp.'s (NASDAQ:IACI) Lending Tree, closer to Bankrate's turf.

It doesn't work all the time, of course. Autobytel (NASDAQ:ABTL) isn't expected to turn a profit until 2009 at the earliest, struggling as it serves up leads for car dealers. HouseValues (NASDAQ:SOLD) recently exited the mortgage lead market.

Still, when it works -- and it clearly is working for Bankrate -- it proves that sometimes it's better to facilitate handshakes with bankers rather than actually being the banker. 

Bankrate and The Knot are active recommendations in the Motley Fool Rule Breakers newsletter service for high-octane growth stock investing. If you want to learn more, take advantage of the service's free 30-day trial. HouseValues is a Hidden Gems selection.   

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has been known to chase yields on the site from time. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. 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.