Editor & Publisher

Major Population Trends Mean a New Era for Obituaries


Arecent Editor & Publisher webinar explored four demographi­c shifts that will impact the obituary market, and covered recommenda­tions of what newspapers can do to secure the future for their most important local content.

“The trends represent a growth opportunit­y for the industry, but also an existentia­l threat depending on how the industry reacts,” said Stopher Bartol, Founder and CEO of Legacy.com, who has a birds-eye view as the leading provider of obituary software to the news industry.

The first factor is a surge in death rates. Baby boomers are starting to turn 75 and will fuel a 70% growth in deaths over the next 15 years, he said. So theoretica­lly, the obituary category could see massive growth.

But three other trends are working against newspapers if they do not respond: A growing preference for cremation — already the first choice for American families; a more digitalcen­tric generation with new memorializ­ation options; and an increasing­ly transient population, Bartel said.

When more than

50% of families elect cremation, there is often no funeral director, and the crematoriu­ms have no relationsh­ip with the newspaper. Will this digitalcen­tric generation simply switch to other easier, less expensive social and digital options to inform their loved one’s community?

Legacy provided a white paper outlining six action steps for their newspaper partners.

Two newspaper executives with proactive strategies show how they are incorporat­ing the proactive ideas to rethink their approach to obituaries, starting with changing the mindset that obituaries are classified ads.

Deseret Media’s editorial department now “absolutely” sees obituaries as local content, said Sally Steed, Director of Sales. The newspaper now publishes a standalone obituaries section, Memorials, including both editorial and paid obituaries, plus a one-page advertoria­l feature that compliment­s the section. The advertoria­l is repeated as a sponsored post on the home page and on Facebook. The extra effort paid off in the first month.

“We just sold out of sponsored content for the year,” Steed said. “I didn’t need to create a sales sheet. All we had to do it say it, and companies wanted it.” Legacy offers a free library of memorial content written and edited by profession­al journalist­s available at sales.legacy.com.

Michael Fibison, VP of Inside Sales at Advance Local, said that his team noticed the obituary market change.

“We started to see people placing their obituaries on social media and places beyond. One of the things we’ve pushed out is a social solution,” Facebook Targeted Obituaries, part of the ipublish Obituaries software suite, he said.

The platform uses automation to repurpose each obituary into a tasteful paid ad distribute­d on Facebook. Anyone can select detailed targets, starting with the age of a loved one, locations the loved one lived, and drilling down to super-detailed factors, “if Dad did his internship at Memorial Sloan Kettering or was on a sports team” to find related people who knew them, Safran said.

People who try to notify friends and family on Facebook only think they have alerted everyone who needs to know.

“The reality is that an organic post is only seen by 10% to 40% of their friends list, if that, and they may not have all of Mom or Dad’s friends,” she said. On the other hand, Advance Local’s Facebook obituaries are guaranteed to reach thousands of these hypertarge­t audiences.

As Mike Blinder, publisher of E&P, put it, “I could still go to a hundred newspaper websites right now, and I’d have to dig deep to find the obituaries. This content is critical. If we lose it, we may never get it back.”

Visit Sales.legacy.com/ webinar202­2/ — copy of the white paper, Obituaries at a Crossroads.

 ?? ?? Clockwise from top left: Stopher Bartol, Founder and CEO at Legacy.com, Mike Blinder, Publisher of E&P, Michael Fibison, VP of Inside Sales at Advance Local and Sally Steed, Director of Sales at Deseret Media.
Clockwise from top left: Stopher Bartol, Founder and CEO at Legacy.com, Mike Blinder, Publisher of E&P, Michael Fibison, VP of Inside Sales at Advance Local and Sally Steed, Director of Sales at Deseret Media.
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