As Boomers age, death rates will soar for a decade, however preferences and needs are radically changing.
Here are the four key trends that will reshape the future of obituaries, and what newspapers can do to growth of this vital section at the heart of community content.
Super-growth of obituaries is there for the taking. Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1965) are turning 75. Approximately 70% more people than usual will pass away during this period—more than 60 million people in the U.S. However, the needs and preferences of their families are changing.
More families opt for direct cremation and privately-placed obituary notices. Driven by price-sensitivity, cremation accounts 50% of all death care choices. And this percentage will only grow – to 78% by 2040. Since most funeral homes do not have crematories, the role of crematoriums will soon be critical, and most newspapers do not have these relationships yet. A growing number of families will also host private services without a funeral director of any kind. These families will place obituaries by private-party, and have other less expensive options, such as social media and online-only platforms.
Boomers are the first transient generation. Boomers are the first generation LESS likely to live and die in one hometown. Today, Boomers are also retiring, resigning and cashing out of homes that have massive appreciation – and thus are free to relocate again. This creates complicated choices for families. Does their local newspaper reach the right communities, and how can they place in more than one area?
Loved ones placing obituaries are digital-centric and used to DIY platforms. The children of Boomers are on-screen. They have high expectations for friendly self-serve options and their first death notice may have been a post on Facebook. They may never have interacted with a newspaper before, or even realize that obituaries are often paid content. Without education, ease of use and affordable options, the tradition of obituaries may be lost on them.
So what can newspapers do to ensure the continued relevance of obituaries, grow their revenues and secure the vital role of this section in their communities?
Success starts with a great online order-entry platform. Self-service and easy order entry is considered an essential option by both funeral homes and private parties, and used by hundreds of newspapers throughout the country. The process needs to be simple, effective, and work – it is the front-line interaction that glues the customer to the newspaper or sends them in another direction. But self-serve order entry by itself is not enough.
Here’s a list of what newspapers can do in the next year:
Elevate the position of obituaries and paid obituaries. Paid obituaries are not classified ads; it is valuable user content, and should run further up in the newspaper and with the editorial obituaries both in print and online. Follow the reader’s journey to find an obituary online and make sure it is easy to find.
Ensure private-party obituaries are easy to place. Follow the customer journey to place an online obituary, as well. There should be no more than two steps. Google your city’s name, “Wichita Obituaries” or “Riverside Iowa Obituaries” does the right page show up? Use print and online to educate the new generation that their loved ones can be featured in the newspaper in a few clicks. The phone tree and call center should never field call-ins using the word “classifieds.” Reps and promotional copy can use words like “featured” and “published” rather than “advertised.”
Automate extended placement of obituaries to out-of-market newspapers. Help families solve the complicated issue of “which city” by allowing them to to place in multiple cities without retyping information, researching pricing and other repetitive tasks. Memoriams Data Network carries the information from the first obituary – text and pictures – to any selected newspaper in the network. It costs nothing to the newspaper, only adds sales and saves an average of 90 minutes for funeral home directors, too.
Offer Targeted Obituaries on Facebook. Available from iPublish Media Solutions, this option automates creation of a tasteful Facebook ad from each obituary, which then runs in-feed to selected targets, such as companies, schools and activities in additional areas. Since an organic post on Facebook only reaches 10% of friends, the paid option provides an inexpensive way to simplify a complicated task for the family and the funeral home.
Use Legacy.com as the online platform, if your newspaper does not already. Not only does each obituary gain the raw SEO power of the leading online obituary platform, but the user experience is also light years ahead: Landing pages have a super-clean design, searches are enabled by target keywords, and connection to local florists and charities is already built in.
Meet with and support local crematoriums. Let them know you understand their importance and want to meet their needs. This may mean creating brochures, electronic communication and referral programs they can use, along with providing price efficient options that acknowledge price sensitivities.
This may seem like a lot to do, but it is not much considering what newspapers have to gain or lose: Their core role in their community, along with a growth market in the high double digits. It may be the most important initiative your newspaper takes on in 2022.