Newspapers are struggling with ad revenues, but one section of the paper is doing very well.  It seems that those funeral notices and obituaries are generating some coins for the newspapers. Some in the industry want to concentrate more on this lucrative revenue source. In an attempt to streamline the way funeral homes and families post those facts about the deceased, some are turning to a company called Legacy.  The newspapers are concerned that they could lose more than just money if they cut out death write ups, since they could also lose a valuable audience who reads this section of the newspaper.

A recent article also states:

For newspapers, the key lesson from history should be clear: Act now, before it’s too late. And don’t let the industry’s current, relatively strong position in death notices and obituaries stand in the way of innovation, collaboration and partnerships.

Medill’s Interactive Innovation Project class last fall was sponsored by, which partners with newspapers to publish their death notices, along with functionality such as searchability, guest-book commenting and the capacity to create memorial pages for the deceased. While I appreciate the company and its executives for supporting our class and helping create a great experience for my students, the conclusions here are my own, shaped by almost 15 years of experience in the world of online publishing.

In many ways, the story of Legacy and newspapers is a story of success. Legacy partners with more than 900 newspapers — including almost all of the largest ones. The papers pay Legacy a fee to host the death notices, which they pay out of the revenue they receive from families, typically through funeral directors. now publishes death notices for about two-thirds of the people who die each day in the United States, which means the site is the best single place to go online to search for information about deceased Americans.

And Legacy provides valuable services for newspapers — guest books, multimedia-uploading capabilities and, especially, a staff of editors that reviews every guest-book posting before publication for inappropriate comments. Most of the Web traffic to these enhanced death notices is generated through the newspapers’ Web sites, but users who don’t know what paper the death notice appeared in can also find it by searching on Including the newspaper-branded pages that Legacy hosts, is now one of the nation’s 100 most-visited Web sites.

There is one more reason while newspapers may need to concentrate on death notices. Death  never stops. Therefore this revenue source will never end no matter how bad the economy gets.

Comments welcome.