13 July 2010

Paying to view current obituaries?

Viewing current obituaries will soon be costing us more. Think about the fortune it costs for a family to have an obituary published in the newspaper. Now if someone else wants to check the newspaper for funeral details it might cost a few extra bucks. An article by David Brauer in yesterday's Minnesota Post gives some details about new online newspaper metering. He later posted about a way to fool the system. I don't want to give easy access to that link -- you will have to find it yourself. I love to read the current obits for free and understand today's economics, but it seems targeted at senior citizens to make a buck. Paying for access just to obits seems a bizarre way to begin. Why not sports articles or scores? Why not advertising?


The first user of the paid obit checks is LancasterOnline which says that "If you are a frequent visitor, staying in touch with our community, you may read seven obituaries for free each month."

Here's a link to another interesting column about the changing service.This includes lots of statistics on which the newspaper is basing its decision.

Just a couple days ago I told a group of fellow genealogists that it was interesting to read both the St. Paul and Minneapolis newspapers online from Friday evening until Monday morning and see little local news. It's like living, crime, accidents, and other events stop for that time period. But we know it really doesn't stop. The newspapers are only published once a day and on the weekends the staffing has been cut to the barest minimum. No longer are we being kept informed of our local area -- well, unless a TV news story or an Associated Press article can be reported in the newspaper. Truly, the local flavor is going, going, going . . .

I guess I like the local funeral homes that also publish obituaries on their websites -- and so far do so at no charge. After all, the families or the funeral home compile the obituary and send it electronically. In today's world the work for the newspaper has been cut back. 

Many newspapers will not post news about upcoming events (even with text and photos provided for free) but will send a reporter to the event and publish the article after the event. How is that helpful? So, if I ran a newspaper -- oh wait, I wear enough hats already.

So, my wish is that newspapers don't become like the airlines. Keep good customer service. Charge if the bottom line requires. But give us lots of the news we are looking for. Tell us about upcoming events so that we may attend them. If you are going to charge to publish obits and then charge someone extra to look at them, charge equally for other info. Hmmm -- do sports teams or city councils get charged to post news about their activities or events? But the grieving family does and then might have to pay to access what it paid to have published. Off my soapbox.

2 comments:

Susan Petersen said...

I'm with you on this one, Paula! My career began in journalism, but took a detour. I still consider myself a person with newspaper ink that runs through my veins. That said, I'm a newspaper junkie. Online. Paper. Digitized versions from 100 years ago.

I recently read an article that said within the next five years the majority of people will be getting their news on a portable device - not even on computers anymore. The entire business of newspapering is changing. I remember always hearing that headlines sold newspapers (I never really believed that - I thought the paid subscribers were what kept the papers going). So, I understand that newspapers must adapt to the times if they are going to stay in business. But I also come from the group that believed that newspapers (and broadcasters) provide a public service. I believe that news media is obligated to offer content. Let them get their revenue through advertising.

I have no easy answers, but this is something that a lot of us old timers may have difficulty adjusting to.

Charles Hansen said...

Almost two years ago our newspaper announced that Google had agreed to digitize all of the two local newspapers from when they began to the present on one and till the second one stopped being published in the 1990s. They filmed the discontinued one first, but somehow they missed nearly all of the obits. Now that the second paper has been showing up it has some obits in the index, but to see the actual obit online they want $2.95. They do keep the obits free for about a week after they are first published, but then they disappear from the free site. Since I volunteer at the library I get copies at the library.