Cheap Irony Alert

It’s been almost a parlor game in this blog’s comment section for the past few months – trying to figure out what sections daily newspapers like the Strib could spin off that could turn a profit.

Sports?  Possible.

Lifestyle stuff?  Maybe.

Coupons?  Worth a shot.

This one, though, caught me by surprise:  obituaries.

It’s seems that obits are, ironically, one of a very sick industry’s healthiest products:

“That’s why it is crucial not only to break the news, but to have the details right. And that includes making sure the person is really dead,” says obituary writer Sandra Martin. She notes that people increasingly want to read obits. Researchers interviewed nearly 40,000 consumers in 100 U.S. newspaper markets and concluded that obits were “important” to 45% of readers and “very important” to an additional 12%.

The spun-off obit page could perhaps be monetized with a tie-in to all of those ghoulish “dead-pool” games that kick into high gear this time of year…

7 thoughts on “Cheap Irony Alert

  1. Legal notices in general pay well. Obits, foreclosure notices, secretary of state filings . . . the law requires that they be published in the newspaper so it’s guaranteed revenue for somebody.

  2. When my mom passed away a couple years ago, the obit was certainly not cheap. The paper charged nearly as much as for a classified on a per word basis.

    I don’t about any obit writer either. We had to submit the copy, and even then, the paper typo’ed my mom’s name. They ran an additional day with the correct spelling.

  3. Florists would be a prime advertiser on an obit site; especially if there’s an on-line link for readers to send flowers for a funeral of a friend or acquaintance. I could also see funeral homes and care centers advertising; not for the deceased, of course, but because the readers are a good bet for having an interest in such things at some point and the name recognition could come in handy.

  4. If they could print the obit the day before a person died that would certainly drive subscriptions higher.

  5. When my Dad passed away in 2005, In the Sacramento Bee, we ran several paragraphs about his childhood, his military service in WWII in the Marines, his service in the Air Force, his history of sports, and his family, the survivors, and those that preceded him, with a small photo. This ran for 3 days.


    I was taken aback. There were at least 2 dozen obits that were much longer with larger photos that ran for a week. Freakin’ racket. I guess our blessing was that there were 7 of of kids to split the cost.

    My Dad’s hometown Sonora Union Democrat ran the obit for three days, plus a “feature” about him – free. Priorities. Citizens, their value to the community, and their service. VS. the Bee’s profit center.

  6. Legal notices could be a vulnerable area. Last I heard Finance and Commerce did most of these but no reason they couldn’t go online on court websites for a far lower cost with the court agency making some revenues. This would be more accessible than print.

    As for obituaries, when my parents died three and four years ago, respectively, we had text only ads. They were perhaps two column inches plus the mortuary logo, maybe three column inches. These ran around $100 per day with prepay in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Several of my late fathers siblings work for this mortuary group. On other items they did a good job of “shopping for the best price” so I believe this is the “market”.

    When my parents died a surprisingly large number of his St. Paul acquaintances showed up for the wake. These tend to be people 70 or older who still subscribe to the Presspatch and scan the obituaries every day. My father died on a Sunday so the obits were all midweek.

    As odd as it sounds wakes are a social event of sorts for many older people. They pay respects but also stay in touch with a dwindling circle of aquantainces. They tend to get information by reading the newspaper obits.

    Like the airline “bereavement rates” the obit rates tend to be high.

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