We gathered your questions about implementing Targeted Obituaries from the presentation with the Chicago Sun-Times and Utah Media Group (Salt Lake Tribune) at the 2020 Local Media Association Digital Summit. Here are the most common questions asked:
How does the Facebook targeting compete, complement or make redundant Legacy.com’s new local newspaper-branded Facebook page for obituaries?
The targeted ads don’t compete, they complement each other. There are three ways the family can put information out on Facebook with this plan.
- Share a post on the page owned by the deceased if they have access /post page owned family. It’s estimated by Facebook that these posts will show up in the news feeds of approximately 10%-40% of “friends.”
- The local newspaper Facebook obituaries page is read by followers of that page It’s estimated by Facebook the posts on these pages reach approximately 5.5%.
- Targeted Facebook Advertising by the family adds further reach to specifically find those people most likely to know the deceased using Facebook’s targeting options—Age, Gender, Location, Interests, School and Employment. It reaches colleagues, college friends, and civic organizations/interests fellow members most likely to know the deceased. This targeted Facebook “ad” reach has a negligible, if any, overlap with the local newspaper-branded Facebook obituaries page followers. This was also anecdotally noted by the newspaper sales managers, who reported how much family members loved seeing the engagement, posts, and loving memories from people not in their immediate circle, but in that next degree of connection to the deceased.
“Families were thankful this was being shared as many of their loved ones were prominent members of the community and this provided friends a way to send their regards who may have lost touch over the years.”
From Thornridge Funeral Home (Chicago Sun-Times)
Both presenting newspapers only allow their funeral homes and call-centers to use AdPortal. Do you allow families/private parties to use AdPortal Obits directly and are there any reasons why private parties should not use it?
Many newspapers focus their self-serve obituaries launch to funeral homes, and internally to their call center. The next step for the newspapers is to allow private parties to place obituaries themselves through AdPortal. Typically, 80 to 90% of newspaper obituaries are placed by funeral homes in markets using the AdPortal Obituaries.
Do you bundle or upsell the Facebook targeted ads? If you bundle did you raise the rate or absorb the cost?
All newspapers in the program bundle the Facebook targeted ad with the print obituary. They implemented the program with a rate increase treated as an assumed sale. Families can opt out; but out of thousands of ad campaigns, there has only been one request for removal, and no complaints about the price increase. The reaction has been the opposite – funeral homes and families have expressed gratitude for this service.
“The Siwe family was touched after they received so many kind messages from friends of their mother who they had never met before on Facebook. Receiving these loving messages helped with their loss.”
The Siwe Family, (Matz Funeral Home)
What is the typical retail value assigned to the rate increase when bundling Facebook targeted ads with the print obituary?
The rate increases range from $29 to $49 depending on the market. The newspaper typically spends $15-18 ($8 with iPublish and $7-$10 buying the Facebook audience), with an average of 50% on the revenue made by the paper. The paper decides both pricing and the “ad buy” on Facebook. That may sound like a small investment, but it’s been proven over and over again to create extraordinary reach.
How long do the targeted Facebook campaigns run?
Because this is a notification, we determined that the right period of time is one week/7 days, and the results are underscoring this theory. The results we typically see is 6-9% CTR’s and up to 10% engagement are from relatively short campaigns with low budgets. We have other platforms that allow permanent remembrances that stay live indefinitely.
How do the targeted ads get set up on Facebook?
AdPortal Obituaries automates building a Facebook ad from the obituary by pulling the picture and adding a choice of background. A simplified interface shows just four appropriate targeting choices, and there is a preset spending cap. Since the iPublish platform interfaces directly with the newspapers’ Facebook’s Ad Manager account, the targeted Facebook ad campaign is fully automated with no human intervention required. The ad buy is sent directly through the API within Facebook. Additionally, iPublish works with the newspaper to provide templates that meet all the Facebook requirements.
We have seen a drop in obituary volume driven by recent rate increases in 2018 and 2019 that negates the gain in more than a few markets. Are you finding that forced rate increases are resulting in similar declines in volume?
Both sales managers from Salt Lake Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times are experiencing the same declines that are happening industry-wide; however this may be reversing, as they reported new funeral homes started placing obits as the word-of-mouth about targeted Facebook ad campaigns grew.
By adding tremendous value, publishers can ask for a rate increase with no objections. Rather, families and funeral homes are asking to have the social targeting feature and willing to pay. “We have had no pushback on the rate increase. None. Which has been shocking to me,” Sally Steed, Senior Vice President of Advertising at the Salt Lake Tribune told us. If you’d like to hear from the newspaper sales managers you may watch the video here.
How long does it take to launch targeted Facebook ads for obits?
For newspapers not using the iPublish’s AdPortal Obituaries platform, the time to launch for targeted obituaries is typically 30 to 60 days because you must use AdPortal Obituaries to activate this program. If you are not an AdPortal Obituaries user, you can look at AdPortal Tributes as a new way to drive revenue with no requirement to be on AdPortal Obituaries.
If you are currently using AdPortal Obituaries, adding targeted Facebook ads can be accomplished in one-three business day(s). Sign the agreement with iPublish, create new packages with your iPublish Project Manager, and we set up the interface with your Facebook Ad Manager within 1-3 business day(s).
However, we do strongly recommend educating your funeral homes prior to launch. iPublish will assist by giving examples of printed materials and participating in conference calls with your funeral directors. iPublish is happy to participate in Zoom calls to demonstrate the features to your funeral home partners.
How do you walk the family through the Facebook targeting options during the obituary submission process? Are you adding time to each call and are funeral homes willing to spend the additional time?
For call centers, which typically handle only a small percentage of orders, iPublish’s AdPortal technology allows ads to be placed in about ten seconds; so the only time is spent talking families through the four audience targeting choices. The funeral homes are actually enthusiastic to spend a bit of extra time, since they are deepening their relationship with families during a stressful time when in-person funerals may not be possible. Funeral directors come to the table with an extra social media outreach service and a one-stop-shop to help families notify hard-to-find connections. As a result, newspapers have received thank you testimonials from funeral homes and families—some for the first time.
Another result noted by the managers in the video, they are getting longer PRINT obituaries, as the Facebook targeting questions are causing the people placing obituaries to “remember” certain things about the deceased that they want in the print obituary.
Regarding Legacy.com’s community Facebook page for obituaries; why would publishers set up a separate Facebook page for publishing recent obituaries? Why not just post them on the publisher’s editorial Facebook page?
For many newspapers, posting hundreds of obituaries every month in their editorial newsfeed, would overwhelm their content feed. Legacy.com suggests a strategy of using a community page for all obits that appear in the newspaper, plus ones that come in to Legacy.com from other sources, and curating a selection of obituaries to appear in the newspaper’s editorial Facebook feed and cross-promoting the other pages.
Both Legacy.com and iPublish Media Solutions are fully committed to the newspaper industry. They also understand that readers and readers are transitioning to digital. Both companies want to remain on the forefront of that migration. The biggest surprise of this initiative is how beloved this service is by end users and the community alike. It is rare to find a revenue-driving initiative that is as embraced by both funeral homes and families as this has been. Of all the platforms iPublish Media and Legacy.com have implemented, this has been the most remarkable.
Please note, although iPublish Media Solutions is owned by Legacy.com, the companies operate independently – in other words, you may work with Legacy & any order intake process your prefer and vice-versa, you may work with iPublish and not send obituaries to Legacy.com.
For more information or to schedule a demo, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.