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The category-saving power of private party placement

Where have all the obituaries gone?

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Deaths are up. Obits are down. Discover why private party placement is the secret to thriving with the digital generation, with three strategies to make your private party intake a revenue-generating success.

We should have an abundance of newspapers obituaries. Boomers are aging fast and U.S. death rates are on the rise. For the next 30 years, 50% more people will die of old age every year (National Center for Health Statistics). And the 33 million people who visit Legacy.com every month tell us they want to remember their loved ones in a meaningful way.

But even during the height of a global pandemic, paid obituary volume in newspapers continued its decades-long decline. Without a rapid adjustment, many newspapers can expect to see a 20% YOY volume drop by the end of 2023.

So where have all the obituaries gone? To find out, you need to understand who today’s obituary purchaser really is. Hint: It’s not just your local funeral director anymore.

Gen X and Millennials are in charge, online and DIY

­­­Gen X and Millennials are now 48% of the population. They’re the ones making the end-of-life arrangements for their parents. And they’re bringing their digital-first expectations with them. 86% of Millennials prefer to make their purchases online (Statista.com). Additionally, that same percentage of U.S. adults prefers to view their daily news on a digital device (Pew Research Center).

They’re also bringing their DIY preferences to how they mark their loved one’s passing. In 2025, 64% of families will choose direct cremation over a traditional burial (Statista.com), bypassing the services of a funeral home director. This puts most end-of-life work in the arranger’s hands. The obituary publication pipeline from the funeral home director to the newspaper is closing fast.

These trends are shrinking the privileged space newspapers once held as the destination for announcing and sharing end-of-life news.

So how can your newspapers reverse this decline?

Embrace private party obituary placement

It’s the consumer-facing solution that offers the convenience and personalization your Millennial and Gen X notice purchasers demand. It expands intake access past traditional gatekeepers. And it reaches the 40 million Americans who move every year and need access to out-of-market newspaper obituary placement.

“We need to have as many new entry points as possible for folks to place obituaries,” says Brian Walsh of Lee Enterprises, an early private-party adopter. “Anything we do on this front is a no-brainer, because you’re going to get people placing obits who otherwise might not have.”

Legacy has spent the last year researching best practices for consumer-facing obituary intake. Here’s what we recommend:

Tip #1:
Understand your private-party audience

From lemonade stands to digital storefronts, identifying purchaser needs is the first step every seller should take.

Here are some key questions to consider when nurturing private party consumers:

  • Who is the purchaser (pre-planner, spouse, child) and why do they need an obituary?
    Pre-planners may want more package options. A life partner may need more help composing the obituary. Adult children could be juggling multiple caregiving roles. Considering these needs is important to designing a system that reaches them all.
  • How did they find you?​
    Did they search online? Browse your obits on social media? Read about you in a pre-planning guide? Millennials are heavy pre-purchase researchers. Understanding where your audience is discovering your placement services is key to building the most effective on-ramps to your intake platform­­­.
  • How can you make the transaction easy for them?
    Millennials and Gen Xers are savvy online consumers. They expect a pain-free experience. One quick way to assess the friction in your funnel: count the number of screens from first click to purchase. “Aim for three or less,” recommends Legacy’s Chief Revenue Officer, Dan Bodde.
  • How did they feel about the experience?​
    This is about so much more than customer satisfaction. Private party users are far more likely to be grieving and emotionally invested in the purchase. Newspapers that ensure their intake process respects these facts will reap the rewards.
  • Do they need help with anything else?
    End-of-life arrangements are complex and multifaceted. Financial, hospice care, memorial planning and gifts: these are just some of the many overlapping service needs that offer additional revenue partnership opportunities.

Tip #2:
Treat private-party intake like ecommerce

Private party is ecommerce. That is the mindset every newspaper
should adopt immediately. An obituary is the last gift a purchaser offers to their loved one. They’re also a product with tremendous potential to generate additional income for newspapers.

The trick is to fully embrace the tenets of good ecommerce. Offer a well-managed funnel that:

“Whether in the cart or by not having customer service staffed seven days a week, most newspapers are unintentionally making it difficult for their private-party customers to do business with them, ” says Bodde.

Tip #3:
Use your private-party Intake to test new products and services

One of the unique perks of this generational shift: freedom. Most family-placed notices are a one-time purchase. This gives you the flexibility to try different revenue enhancement packages without the risk of damaging long-term relationships. Here are just a few of the many ways you can experiment with new revenue-generating opportunities:

  1. Dynamic price points.
  2. Digital-only obits.
  3. Memorial videos.
  4. Add-ons like memorial trees, flowers and genealogy services.

Legacy private-party management services

Audience research. Digitally-optimized design. Managed funnels. Providing this level of development may feel far outside the reach of most media organizations.

But what if your newspaper had an experienced digital partner they could trust to help? Someone with a turnkey, free private-party solution your newspaper can launch today.

Legacy.com now offers the first nationwide service for private-party placement. Open to any U.S. newspaper, the program delivers:

  • Mobile-focused, managed ecommerce funnel designed to increase conversions and expand revenue.
  • 24/7-day-a-week and after-hours customer support.
  • Death verification and content screening.
  • Seamless delivery of print-ready obituaries.
  • 100% of obituary purchase price to your paper.


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