You’ll learn their full value when you discover what obituaries do, and what they mean to the people who read them.

by Tracie Martin, Senior Marketing Writer,

Newsprint is dying, or at least everyone seems to believe it is. What does this mean for obituaries? After all, the printed newspaper was the standard vehicle for obituaries for at least a hundred years. As that format for delivering local news loses its dominance in our media landscape, one might wonder how present the obituary itself is in people’s lives these days.  

Good news: The obituary is not only alive and very well, it is driving significant and quantifiable value for your funeral home. But to understand the obituary’s full impact, we need to understand what obituaries actually do, and what they mean to the people who read them. 

“Every life deserves a final chapter. That’s an obituary to me.”

— A 2018 survey respondent, reflecting on why they chose to honor their loved one with an obituary

Our Last, Best Word 

Every funeral director knows that an obituary is more than some service details and a logo. Says Frank Joyce of F.J. Joyce & Son: “An obituary is the only way somebody 100 years from now will know that you lived.” For many facing their mortality, leaving behind this record is one of their biggest end-of-life priorities. In a recent survey of funeral home directors conducted by, 70% said the family placed a notice because the deceased wanted them to.  

For the families tasked to write them, Frank says: “It’s our last chance to get the story right.” 66% of Funeral Director respondents said they themselves would place a notice for a loved one. 

“Obituaries tell the story of our families, our communities and ourselves.”

The Original Water Cooler 

People care the most about what’s happening around them. If you think about it, that makes a lot of sense. Road closures can make us late for that doctor’s appointment we just can’t reschedule. Snow days can mean an empty fridge we can’t stock and a desperate need for childcare. And a death in our community means someone who filled a unique role in our day-to-day lives is gone. That’s important to know.  

The Romans agreed. Their Acta Diurna, often credited as the first newspaper, was a daily bulletin that informed all Romans about important regional happenings, like military victories, gladiatorial bouts outcomes, and birth and death notices.

The Original Tablet

Life, death, and sports. We may not be carving our important news on stone anymore, or even publishing them in print, but turns out, those are still the things people care about the most. A recent study from Harvard’s Neiman Lab, in partnership with the University of Minnesota and Duke University, analyzed more than 150,000 stories posted in Facebook’s local news feature, Today In. Researchers found that obituaries were the third highest category, trailing only sports and emergencies. 

Image courtesy Weber et al, Local News on Facebook, September 2019

These trends play out across the digital landscape. According to Google, searches for the term “obituary” has increased in by 200% over the past five years, and, notably, bypasses “funeral home” in popularity. 


If You Post It, They Will Come 

Your families want obituaries for their loved ones, and the community wants to read them. Aside from offering you the chance to give your clients the best service, how does this help your funeral home? We can think of several, but here’s the most important: The #1 prompt for funeral pre-planners was the death of someone they know. (Source: 2019 pre-planner consumer survey.) An obituary remains the preferred way to share this information: when surveyed more than 1,200 funeral planners in 2018, 89% posted an obituary of some kind. And we know that people are going online for them.  

Here’s the great news: Your brand, contact information, and the tacit seal of approval your home receives by appearing in a friend’s feed all follow that obituary across the web. This turns each obituary you post into your spot at the digital water cooler…and your online business card… and your community engagement strategy, and… 

In our next installment, we’ll explore the full power of that span of opportunities, tracing an obituary across the web to show you exactly how many touchpoints you’ll receive – and how those translate into the kind of lead generation that really matters today. 

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