Obituaries: a business idea for online pubs?


Obituaries are a mainstay of the local paper. Can local web publishers create a template for folks to write up their departed’s story? Pictures should be easy to add; video in time. Make the web posting of the obituary free. The publisher can, however, make money by delivering various hard copy mementos to friends and family (have you seen the new picture books? what about mailing stuff to out-of-towners?). These are services that may have value to the family. For artifacts they will pay. The publisher will offer free web display and user-generated labor to create a place for anyone to be remembered; and simultaneously create a network of producers to craft these mementos. The publisher’s fee will be for pulling these services together.

I recently bounced that idea off Tish (the Constant Observer) Grier and got back a qualified maybe. That leads me to wonder: is there some sort of Open Source development wish list for media people who come up with ideas that may be money-makers — but they lack the technical know-how to implement?

She wrote:

“This sounds workable–but it sounds also like it would need software development.  Then, it would be a matter of getting newspapers to integrate the software. I’m not sure how much they’re willing to invest in new kinds of software for one portion of their papers.  Also, I think there may be some kinds of similar projects being developed right now, that may be in “beta”.  A friend out here, Jill Fallon (who blogs mainly on death and legacy related issues) has had some sort of digital legacy thing in development for awhile now.” 

A bit later Tish followed up to say she knew that Susan Kitchen’s 20/20 Hindsight blog is creating a user-friendly Family Oral History site, which is kind of like the obituary notion. But a check on Fallon’s blog disclosed nothing new on her digital legacy idea.

“So, from the folks I know, no one seems to be doing an obit software,” Tish wrote. “We could take the conversation we were having out in public. But I’m not sure how much I can contribute till the project I’m on is over.”

Well, thanks, Tish for thinking out loud on this. An obituary module would be a useful addition for local online publisher (such as those who gather at But where do non-techhies like me order it? Where is the MIS department for media?

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Half-empty or half-full? Two recent news articles came up with very different headlines to encapsulate a report about user-generated video made by Screen Digest, the London market research firm. MediaPost sounded excited: “UCG to dominate online video by 2010.” But PaidContent was more sanguine with: “User-generated video: where’s the money?” Yes, they’re talking about the same report. It’s a web media, stupid! Of course there’s lots of it, hence none of it has much value.

Riding roughshod on Mother Earth? If you’ve never done so before, visit to check out their Ecological Footprint project. It will make you think about how activities that we take for granted in the developed world weigh upon the health of the planet. Meanwhile, remember the famous African proverb:

” Treat our earth well for it was not given to us by our parents, It is lent to us by our children.”