Obituaries 2.0

Nicholas Carr reports on a Guardian story about a site called YouDeparted.com. According to the article, users of the site “can issue posthumous instructions for everything from their funeral to feeding their pet, cancelling bills and magazine subscriptions, organising their will and other financial matters, sending final letters to friends – and foes – and delivering a valedictory video address summing it all up.”

This new service reminds me of a conversation I had last week at the Kelsey conference with Peter K. and some folks from Quebecor Media. I was discussing my interest in a web site called Find a Grave where you can search and find famous graves from all over the world. I started to wonder about the opportunity in online obituaries classified ads. It must be a good revenue generator for newspapers and I suspect those revenues can only go up.

While researching the subject, I found that many important US newspapers are using the outsourced services of Legacy.com. They describe themselves as “the leading provider of online obituary solutions for the newspaper industry. Legacy.com enhances obituaries with guest books, funeral home information, and florist links, providing a community-oriented, content-rich solution for more than 400 newspapers. Visited by more than 7 million users each month, Legacy.com provides links to obituaries published by the company’s network of newspaper affiliates. Through this network, Legacy.com posts obituaries and Guest Books for one in two people who die in the U.S. each day. ”

Founded in 1998, the company has many investors including Tribune Company. According to this Chicago Sun-Times article, Legacy.com had 50 employees and $10M in revenues in 2005.

2 thoughts on “Obituaries 2.0

  1. I’m skeptical of sites like YouDeparted, for a few reasons:

    1. You’re trusting this information to a fly-by-night dot-com startup that may go bankrupt long before you die.
    2. The verification process varies and its security is questionable. Some employ a “dead man’s switch” process where you have to verify your lifeness, which can produce a false-positive if you go on vacation too long or a false-negative if your computer automatically does it for you. Others like YouDeparted give the power to “recipients” (i.e. your friends) to unlock the account for you, which doesn’t sound very secure.
    3. Anyone with enough foreknowledge to setup an account (and pay for it!) with this service is probably going to go through the trouble of writing a will and leaving instructions with a lawyer. And there’s nothing you really get with these services you can’t get by leaving a will with a human lawyer in a safe place.

  2. I’m skeptical of sites like YouDeparted, for a few reasons:

    1. You’re trusting this information to a fly-by-night dot-com startup that may go bankrupt long before you die.
    2. The verification process varies and its security is questionable. Some employ a “dead man’s switch” process where you have to verify your lifeness, which can produce a false-positive if you go on vacation too long or a false-negative if your computer automatically does it for you. Others like YouDeparted give the power to “recipients” (i.e. your friends) to unlock the account for you, which doesn’t sound very secure.
    3. Anyone with enough foreknowledge to setup an account (and pay for it!) with this service is probably going to go through the trouble of writing a will and leaving instructions with a lawyer. And there’s nothing you really get with these services you can’t get by leaving a will with a human lawyer in a safe place.

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