Digital grim reapers are coming for one of the last main revenue streams of newspapers

As the struggling newspaper industry upcharges for obituaries, the digital age could put the nail in the coffin.


August 28, 2019

Wouldn’t it be ironic if the only thing keeping the floundering local newspaper market from croaking was the death marketplace? Well… according to local online obituary and advertising placement firm Adpay, that’s partly true.

That’s right, obit sections are a $500m yearly enterprise for local papers. But, in order to stay out of a coffin, newspapers are forced to nickel-and-dime customers looking to send their loved ones off gracefully into the night.

Now, Adpay and other digital death-care companies like Legacy.com are stepping in as the local obit’s Grim Reaper.

Desperate times call for desperate measures

Obituaries typically cost around $100 for a standard listing, but, in a large market, the average revenue per obit is around $486+ with up-charges like photos or logos of affiliated organizations. Small and medium-sized markets tend to be around $318.

Some newspapers charge obituaries by the character numbers in a piece, while others charge by the number of lines, square inches, or word count. 

Problem is, because of these desperate upcharges and paywall ransoms, local papes have driven low-income readers away.

As always, that’s where the digital age comes in

Companies like Legacy.com (which claimed to publish 1 in every 3 obits in the US back in 2017) are cornering the market by taking web traffic away from the online portion of local news organizations.

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