Beat the cost and limitations of obits

Writing yesterday about new options for the ashes of departed loved ones caused me to remember how shocked I was to learn of the cost to run an obituary in my hometown newspaper. I naively thought that these commemorations were news, covered by the paper as part of its service. Not so.

My local, the Columbus Dispatch, charges $5.73 per line per day, M-Sat, and $8.21 per line on Sunday. An additional $30 charge is added to each to extend the obit to the Internet, via the site Legacy.com. Legacy.com is a web site owned by a group of newspapers. A typical 50-line obit in the Dispatch running twice during the week would cost $603. A one-timer in the Sunday edition would set you back $440.50. This is typical of other papers, indexed against circulation.

One look at Legacy.com shows just how primitive the newspaper obit is, and why it won't last much longer. Online, the information can be accessed anywhere, any time, in perpetuity, and length is only a matter of electrons. More importantly, richer content, such as photos, movies, and recordings can be added to the memorial with a mouse click. This site also offers readers the opportunity to contribute their memories and tributes.

The only added-value feature newspaper obits can offer is lamination.

While Legacy.com is only available as a part of newspaper obits, there are other sites that offer similar services without this requirement. With the advent of Googlepages and Facebook, though, anyone with a modicum of design sense can put together a free tribute site with all the family links and rich content imaginable.

When I die, I've instructed my wife that my newspaper obit is to read "See TomBarlowisdead.com for details." That should fit on one line.

Addendum: In my research for this piece, I ran across an announcement for the 10th Great Obituary Writer's International Conference. If my career counselor had only told me about this...

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