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December 16, 2019 Beyond The Dash

Get Your Clipping: Why Do People Still Publish Obituaries in Print?

In a digital world, print still has power—when it comes to death

Get Your Clipping: Why Do People Still Publish Obituaries in Print?
There is still plenty of value—and demand—for print obituaries. A tangible copy of the life story is a comforting reminder of a life well-lived. (Getty Images)

Many print publications are struggling to keep up with the instant news potential of digital publishing. Social media, blogs, video and digital news sources have become the main ways people stay current with the content that interests them. 

Print newspapers have long been the standard medium for publishing obituaries. But today, families have more options than ever for publishing the life story of a loved one who has recently passed away: 

  • Print newspaper

  • Digital newspaper

  • Digital memorial website

  • Private print (such as in a funeral program)

  • Social media (such as in a Facebook post) 

  • Website of a professional association of which the deceased was a member

With many digital options available, it's important to ask: What value does print publishing hold for families wishing to publish a loved one's obituary?

Digital publishing offers greater flexibility, but only for tech-savvy grievers

Digital publishing lets families the ability to edit the life story, interact with other mourners, receive condolences and build a lasting memorial. This flexibility matches what social media users have come to expect: control, personalization and immediacy. 

However, digital stories are only useful for tech-savvy mourners. If the grieving family does not engage online, it's unlikely they will use a digital memorial to its full potential. In this case, it's best to choose a print option. Most important is reaching mourners in a way that is most accessible to them. 

Cost can be a barrier to publishing an obituary in print. But this memorialization may be worth the price for a family that values a physical memento. (Getty Images)

Print obits are still essential for most families

With more flexible and interactive options available, it's interesting that traditional print obituaries are still a leading destination for life storytelling. In a recent consumer study, nearly half of Midwestern respondents said an obituary should appear both online and in a print newspaper. The same study showed 16% preferring print newspaper publishing only, and 24% preferred an online-only option. 

This demonstrates the power of print in a digital age, when it comes to death. 

Why is print still popular for obituaries?

There are many reasons to opt for a print obituary in addition to a digital memorial:https://beyondthedash.com/blog/grief/why-do-we-mourn-for-celebrities/7306

  • Tangible memento

There is still a strong demand for print obituaries. Namely, because many North American families feel remiss in not getting a clipping of the newspaper story. The attraction of a physical memento is undeniable at a time when the story feels less tangible than ever. The lack of the person here on earth makes the possessions of the deceased more precious and meaningful than ever, especially for those who are grieving the loss. 

A physical copy of an obituary story, clipped from the newspaper of the day, is a comforting reminder that their life meant something, and is remembered.

  • Death announcement

Print obits are also a practical means of announcing a death. Particularly in smaller towns, the local newspaper is an important means of delivering news. Families in these communities rely on a physical newspaper to announce a death in the community.

  • Recognition in the community

In the past, having a line in the local newspaper to announce a death was an honor afforded to newsworthy people and noteworthy families. As print became more accessible, obituaries of ordinary folks became more prevalent. A death notice in the newspaper is a symbol of respect, and a way of breaking the news of a death to the community. 

  • Honoring the past

For many, it comes down to nostalgia, and traditional values. Many North Americans can recall a parent or older relative making sure to get a loved one's obituary clipping from the newspaper on the day the story was run. 

Even if there are more efficient and flexible methods of publishing life stories nowadays, a print obituary can honor a family's past. People who remember a parent keeping a relative's obituary clipping may see this as a rite of passage when that parent passes away. In this way, going through the motions of publishing a story in print and keeping the memento is an essential part of saying a dignified and respectful goodbye. 

Saving a copy of the newspaper death announcement still holds significance in grief and memorialization for many families, particularly in North America. 

  • Context

Some mourners don't keep just the obituary clipping. The full newspaper from the date the obituary was run can act as a snapshot of the news, weather, community events and politics of the time. This broader context can be comforting and informative for relatives looking back on the physical keepsake years later. 

The digital advantage

Print may still hold a strong presence in the obituary publishing space, but there are many advantages to creating a digital memorial for someone who has passed. 

  • Preserves and protects 

One centralized digital location for the obituary, memories, photos, links and condolences keeps these records safe. A clipping of a printed newspaper obituary can be incredibly meaningful. But if a clipping is the only record of a life story, a fire, flood or move could destroy it.

  • Engagement with other mourners 

The formality (and finality) of a print obituary is attractive for newspaper customers, but this rigidity is what may push modern mourners to digital. An online life story offers the ability to engage with others in the community, and to share special memories with everyone. Sharing is easy, instantaneous and far reaching. Digital obits last online forever, so that there is always more opportunity to visit and add to the growing memorial. 

  • Cost

Digital stories are almost always more affordable than print stories. Families wishing to publish a loved one's life story in print must be willing to shell out a minimum of $50 for a simple death notice. A longer, detailed obituary can easily cost $1,000 or more, depending on the paper, images and length used.

Digital obituaries are free to place on Beyond the Dash. These stories live online forever, include a free, unlimited guestbook, and can be shared on any social media platform. 

Thinking of someone? Tell their story today. 

Create an Obituary

A print obituary is a traditional, meaningful way to pay tribute to a person who made a positive impact on the community and their family. Creating a newspaper notice, getting a clipping and preserving this story in family records is a ceremony that many North American families consider an essential part of remembering a special person. Though there are many new digital sharing options, many of these families will purchase several copies of the paper and mail clippings to family and friends. 

Whatever feels right to the surviving family is the best form of pay respects.

Want a print obituary? Beyond the Dash can help. When you create a free digital memorial on Beyond the Dash, you have the option of publishing the story on any of over 6,000 newspapers across North America. We'll help you reach the publication of your choice, provide you with a quote and print proof of your loved one's story, and assist you every step of the way as you create a special tribute. 

Create a digital memorial

Having trouble writing an obituary? Try our free interactive obituary template.

Fill in some information about your loved one, and we'll generate some text that you can use as a starting point for your online memorial.

Try now
Your loved one had a remarkable life. Tell their story, and we’ll publish it online for free.

After creating an online memorial, you can also publish in print in any of over 6,000 newspapers across North America.

Get started for free
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