Humor: Another fatal blow to newspapers

An obituary for the newspaper obit, as the Web steals another franchise by resorting to grave-robbery
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Seattle's Lakeview Cemetery

An obituary for the newspaper obit, as the Web steals another franchise by resorting to grave-robbery

Reeling from declining circulation, plunging ad revenue, and the loss of classifieds, newspapers now face a challenge to their last stronghold — obituaries.

Two websites, and Pine-box.doa, are luring the lucrative obit business away from newspapers. adopts a wiki approach, allowing anyone to contribute to and revise obituaries. This gives them a big cost advantage because, unlike newspapers, does need to hire writers. 'ꀜWe let the world write the obit,'ꀝ states CEO D. Jones Locker. 'ꀜThat way we get the complete picture of the life.'ꀝ

However, user-generated content in often features vituperative comments by ex-spouses, for example:

  • My sole regret is that he did not suffer longer.
  • When I walked out, I told Harry to go Hell. Now he'ꀙs finally done it.
  • Is he really dead? He always looked and acted dead. How can you tell?

Locker welcomes such comments. 'ꀜWe like our obits to be lively, to reflect the give and take of interactivity on the web. We believe an obit should capture the multiplicity of voices and the controversies that is a part of life,'ꀝ Locker asserted. 'ꀜWe are proud of the fact that over half of the postings contain the phrase SOB, bastard, and nitwit.'ꀝ's major on-line competitor, Pine-box.doa, looks more like a traditional social networking site. 'ꀜWe are the Facebook of the Flatlined,'ꀝ claims CEO Jeff Croaker. 'ꀜWe give all stiffs a separate page and encourage them to become 'ꀘfriends'ꀙ of others who have taken their last curtain call. There is no reason to curtail social networking simply because you have been brought home in a box,'ꀝ Croaker continued. 'ꀜAfter you'ꀙre six feet under, at Pine-box.doa, you can enjoy a virtual social life with other who are pushing up daisies.'ꀝ

At Pine-box, friends can 'ꀜhook up'ꀝ and engage in virtual group activities such as buying the farm, kicking the bucket, and biting the dust.

Thus far advertising revenues at obit sites have been disappointing. While both sites carry ads from funeral parlors, casket manufactures, and Medical Schools looking for cadavers, mainstream advertisers are scarce. 'ꀜThese sites have a problem,'ꀝ states Alison Douglas, Managing Director of JWT Advertising. 'ꀜThe dead are not a desirable demographic. Brand preferences are usually fixed by the time one check outs. Moreover, disposable income tends to decrease after one goes belly up.'ꀝ

Locker at disagrees. 'ꀜJust because you have pulled the plug does not mean you are no longer swayed by advertising. We believe the happy hunting grounds are also the fertile advertising grounds.'ꀝ


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