Thursday, February 04, 2010

First thing we'll do is kill all the obit traffic ...

OK, it might not be as prosaic as kill all the lawyers, but I was struck by Paid Content's report that one of Journalism Online's first clients to go public, the Intelligencer Journal-Lancaster New Era, planned as one of it first tests to put its obits behind at least a partial paywall: In Lancaster, publisher Steinman Enterprises will charge readers outside the circulation area for access to obits, starting with a certain number free and then requiring a fee.

It's an interesting move, since obits are one of the most popular landing points at many smaller papers. But I'm not sure they are one of the most monetizable, at least not this way.

I don't know how many you'll get free, so it may not make a lot of difference (unless you are some kind of serial mourner or have some very large - and aging - family). But I have argued here before that the best way to make money off the out-of-towners would seem to me to be advertising from those who cater to the mourners. Using the Salon model, have them watch a 10-second ad for the florist and then have that morph into an "order here" button. Get the premium for pay per click.

It seems to me there are other alternatives for getting obituary information. Put up a pay firewall, and are you actually losing potential, premium income?

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At 2/5/10, 12:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello. I find your blog to be very interesting from one journalist to another. Obits aren't what I focus on, but nonetheless, the topic of finding new ways for journalism to get funded is one that interests me. There is a PBS show airing in the DC area that has a debate on the topic of quality journalism dying, the info on it can be found at
I think youll find it a well rounded debate. ENJOY!!

At 2/6/10, 10:15 AM, Blogger Jack Rosenberry said...

The Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle has been doing something like this for years, at least insofar as they very rarely do obits on anyone other than prominent people, leaving this news to be reported via the paid death notices -- which sometimes run 2 or 3 pages. Granted, this isn't the same as a reader-pay model, but it still means turning news of deaths into a revenue source rather than something reported on as community news. And, like many other papers, the D&C a few years ago started doing the same for wedding and engagement announcements, making those who want them reported pay for the privilege rather than accepting them as community news submissions


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