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:
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:
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.
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:
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:
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