Newspapers' Revenue Plan: If Lots Of People Used To Give Us A Little, We'll Now Get A Few People To Give Us A Lot!

from the nice-try dept

Mark writes in with a story about how some newspapers are apparently jacking up the prices they charge for death notices (via The Consumerist). The original author balked at paying the SF Chronicle $450 for a 182-word death notice, calling it an exploitation of people who, when dealing with a death, will simply swallow it and pay up. That might be a little extreme, but clearly death notices are an area where papers can try to make up revenues they've lost in their classifieds and other areas. The key word here is "try" -- by jacking up the cost of death notices, the plan seems to be to replace lots of people paying newspapers a little bit of money with a few people paying them a lot. Which makes perfect sense, right? The problem is that papers are assuming that death notices are something people will keep paying for blindly, when, like so many other parts of their business, they appear to be living on borrowed time. Just like classifieds shifted to the internet, so too are things like death notices, with social networks like Facebook becoming a more popular way for members of younger generations to learn about deaths in their social circles. Charging high fees for death notices seems like an easy way for newspapers to hasten their irrelevance and demise, not a way to grow their revenues.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    abc gum, Apr 20th, 2010 @ 4:53am

    Question is,
    will they publish their own death notice?

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 20th, 2010 @ 5:00am

    Could they get someone from the economy section to tell them why this wont work?

    Also, Carlo, not trying to TAM here (note: I am not calling you "the masnick") but 230 words? Seriously? I'm sure you could have gone into a little more depth here.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 20th, 2010 @ 5:23am

    the masnick would be disappointed by the length of this lame post. he would be even more disappointed because the flavor of the story is cwf+rtb: instead of selling something to many people for a low price, you hope a few suckers will pay over the top to allow all the free loaders to get something.

     

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  4.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Apr 20th, 2010 @ 5:26am

    It's actually worse than that. My local paper is a part of the Mlive sites. Not only do you pay a lot to get an obituary, it only remains online for two weeks. After that people have to pay to see it. It's complete BS.

     

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  5.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Apr 20th, 2010 @ 5:50am

    Re:

    What the balls are you talking about? The only thing I see missing from this article is the original price for the obituary (and I don't know how relevant that would be anyways). Quantity is not quality. It would also help if you said what you thought was missing.

    This is not about cwf+rtb. This is not about giving away obituaries. This is about raising the price without giving extra reason to pay. Don't be a TAM.

     

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  6.  
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    Simon, Apr 20th, 2010 @ 6:10am

    Re:

    They can't afford it.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 20th, 2010 @ 6:22am

    Re: Re:

    the obit section is the rarity they are selling to pay for the rest of the paper.

     

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  8.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Apr 20th, 2010 @ 6:25am

    How long...

    ...before Google announces GoogleDeath and swallows up that part of the newspaper income as well?

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    pr, Apr 20th, 2010 @ 6:29am

    Comparable value

    How much do they charge a car dealer for an equal amount of space? I bet it ain't $450. That's how you figure out whether they are charging a reasonable rate or dancing on graves.

     

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  10.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Apr 20th, 2010 @ 7:06am

    "Charging high fees for death notices seems like an easy way for newspapers to hasten their irrelevance and demise, not a way to grow their revenues."

    What else is new? Everything the newspapers, record labels, and tv studios do goes against basic economic theory and is self defeating. I dont have much hope that they will survive the next 10-15 years.

     

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  11.  
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    fogbugzd (profile), Apr 20th, 2010 @ 7:12am

    How much are the notices worth?

    Paywalls mean that fewer people see the notices. That means that the notices are worth less to the families. Generally, if people don't see notices on a daily basis themselves, they are not going to think the notices are important.

    I wonder if the business plans that say paywalls are a good idea take into account lost revenue from sources like death notices and advertising.

     

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  12.  
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    Jake, Apr 20th, 2010 @ 7:22am

    What exactly is the point in posting a death notice in the newspaper anyway? The main purpose of them was to notify friends or relatives of the deceased more cheaply than mailing individual letters, something that could be accomplished just as easily by telephone, let alone email. And I don't know about anyone else, but if my grandfather had died I'd rather be notified in a somewhat less impersonal way if possible.

     

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  13.  
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    Free Capitalist (profile), Apr 20th, 2010 @ 7:37am

    Re: Re: Re:

    the obit section is the rarity they are selling to pay for the rest of the paper.


    Yay! You read the article. Now come up with an argument why the article's warning (that this is a stupid idea because newspaper death notices are pretty much superfluous anymore) is in some way inaccurate. You can do it! Or can you see that no business model, no matter how "masnick", will work well when employed with a misguided premise.

     

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  14.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Apr 20th, 2010 @ 7:43am

    Re: Re: Re:

    But you're missing both the cwf part and the rtb part. Why would these people pay more? What incentive are they getting? The answer is none. So this is not a cwf+rtb part.

    Plus the fact that they are only raising the price to counteract the drop in subscriptions, not to offer anything new or free.

     

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  15.  
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    Overcast (profile), Apr 20th, 2010 @ 8:39am

    Notices in the paper are useful only if people are reading it..

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 20th, 2010 @ 8:46am

    "death notices are an area where papers can try to make up revenues they've lost in their classifieds and other areas."

    If nothing else qualifies as evidence depicting the ruthless nature of those who hold these draconian business models, this certainly does.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    AR, Apr 20th, 2010 @ 9:07am

    This is all built on the blatant economic fallacy of "build it and they will come". Consumer economics is the only way that works in the long run.
    Give the people what they want at a price they are WILLING TO PAY
    What these morons dont understand is that as the price goes up so does the demand for ingenuity to find a better or cheaper way. They dont (want to) care about the markets any more. Only the bottom line. Maximise profits by price gouging with acceptable loss levels built into the new higher price. My first thought was a new category for a certain list that is searchable by city or area. The only problem with this is lack of over-site. Stupid people will do stupid things. Or a certain search site that offers rs news feeds by area. Ingenuity always wins out over greed. Just look at how its working for the music industry.

     

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  18.  
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    Stephen, Apr 20th, 2010 @ 9:48am

    no common readership

    Death notices assume that the people you want to notify read the same paper, but here in NJ I doubt that's the case. I don't get my town's paper, and I could care less if my town knows I'm dead because I don't think they know I'm alive. I read the Star Ledger, but I don't know how many of my friends do; plus they're my friends so they'll probably find out I'm dead some other way. Putting a notice in the NY Times is just a vanity ad. If my death is significant enough or bizarre enough, I want the Times to cover it, not take money for the story.

     

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  19.  
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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Apr 20th, 2010 @ 9:53am

    *Very* Annoying.

    I ran into something like this recently. I was attempting to legally change my name and was required by the courts to post a legal blurb about it in the paper of their choosing-- the small, local city paper. (Oddly enough, the city the courthouse was in, not the city I reside in.)

    So I call the paper and make arrangements to post the blurb and come to find it will cost me $140. Now, that's not a lot of money, except that I *couldn't* shop around for a better price. The paper could have charged me $1,400. If I wanted to go through with the process, I had to put the blurb in the paper.

    As soon as I was told I had to use a newspaper, I immediately wondered what would happen when there is no newspaper. It was the first time I've ever given money to a newspaper, and hopefully it will be the last.

    ..and the crazy thing: The paper had dozens of similar legal blurbs in it.. I imagine it's how they stay out of the red.

     

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  20.  
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    Comboman, Apr 20th, 2010 @ 10:28am

    Re: How long...

    I was wondering that myself. Why hasn't some bright entrepreneur come up with the Craigslist equivalent of birth/death/wedding notices?

     

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  21.  
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    Danny (profile), Apr 20th, 2010 @ 11:30am

    Re: *Very* Annoying.

    What was your name before you changed it to "The Infamous Joe"?

     

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  22.  
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    PRMan, Apr 20th, 2010 @ 11:51am

    Re:

    When my mother died, I actually wondered why we were spending money at the mortuary to have him put a notice in x # of newspapers. It was a pretty high price, but not so high as to object.

    My father (who reads the newspaper every day) insisted, so we did it. I don't know of anyone who would have heard of her death that way that didn't already know, so it all seemed rather pointless to me.

    I can assure you that we probably won't be paying that fee in the future, as newspapers become even more irrelevant (and raising the prices to ridiculous levels on top of it).

     

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  23.  
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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Apr 20th, 2010 @ 12:28pm

    Re: Re: *Very* Annoying.

    The Gangster of Love, but everyone called me Maurice.

    Also annoying.

     

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  24.  
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    Rose M. Welch (profile), Apr 20th, 2010 @ 12:45pm

    When my grandmother died, her nursing home put up a lovely obit with a full color photo album on the internet, for FREE. That's what we referred to. It's so much easier to pass on a link than it is to go purchase a paper, the right paper, and try and preserve that.

    I don't even think that she had a newspaper obituary. So it really doesn't matter what they're charging. They're obsolete even if free.

     

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  25.  
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    Ron (profile), Apr 20th, 2010 @ 2:49pm

    Death Notices

    While it may be true that newspaper death notices could be replaced by social networking sites (hopefully not "Oh, here's a tweet while my child is drowning in the pool"), my genealogy work would suffer greatly if I had to search a bunch of social sites to locate a death notice. Maybe some enterprising person will build a site that would allow anyone to post a death notice for some reasonable price like maybe $100 and keep that notice searchable for a long time (hmmm, maybe I should patent that idea).
    And, the guy who paid $450 for a death notice; what's he bitchin's about? The price for those has been over the top for decades. SF Chronicle charged me almost $400 (about a buck a word) for my dad's death notice in 1981.

     

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  26.  
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    Rose M. Welch (profile), Apr 20th, 2010 @ 4:03pm

    Re: Death Notices

    Maybe genealogists should host a site where people can put up death notices. I mean, if the end benefit is to genealogists, then maybe the genealogists should pay for it. :)

    Honestly, I don't see what the point of a death notice is to the dead person, or their relatives. If you know me well enough to care that I'm dead, you probably already know that I'm dead. If not, then why should I spend one red cent to tell you?

     

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  27.  
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    BearGriz72 (profile), Apr 20th, 2010 @ 7:20pm

    Re: How long...

    Whois: GoogleDeath.com
    Registrant:
    Joseph Hunkins
    {REDACTED}
    Talent, Oregon 97540
    United States
    Domain Name: GOOGLEDEATH.COM
    Created on: 13-Jul-08
    Expires on: 13-Jul-11
    Last Updated on: 19-Apr-10

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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