Study Finds Sticker Shock with Newspaper Obituary Prices

More families are avoiding high newspaper obituary costs
A stack of newspapers open to the obituary section sitting on a table

Credit: Flickr.com

If a close loved one died, would you buy space for an obituary in your local newspaper? A recent study found that 88 percent of respondents would. However, many of these same respondents were surprised to find out just how much an obituary costs.

Legacy.com asked more than 1,000 people whether they would buy an obituary for a loved one. They also asked them what price they would be willing to pay for this service. The researchers discovered that interest in obituaries is high, yet few people choose to purchase space after they find out how much it costs.

The cost of an obituary depends on the format and the location of the newspaper. The more text and photos you include in an obituary, the more it costs. It also costs more to place an obituary in a major metropolitan newspaper compared to a local paper with a smaller readership.

Generally, small newspapers either won’t charge for an obituary at all, or will charge a flat rate of less than $50. By comparison, larger newspapers charge anywhere from $88 to $100 per inch. The San Francisco Chronicle typically charges $86 per inch and adds a $170 fee for photos. All told, if you were to place a 3-inch death notice in the Chronicle with one photo included, you would pay about $428 for the obituary. These costs also depend on how long you want your notice to run.

The greatest discrepancy in cost expectations and real pricing comes from national newspapers and papers from cities with high populations. Due to the size of the readership and limited space availability in the obituary section, even short obituaries cost much more than most people expect. If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you will pay much more for an obituary than someone living in a small town in Kansas, because print space in the Bay Area is more sought-after and limited.

The obituary section of a newspaper, with a notice of death written inside

Credit: Flickr.com

However, this recent study found an alternative for families who aren’t willing to drop hundreds of dollars on an obituary. Online-only obituaries cost an average of 70 to 80 percent of what a print notice costs. And this can amount to hundreds of dollars in savings. Researchers also found that online notices were much closer to buyer expectations.

In addition, a newspaper’s online obituary section isn’t as limited on space as the print edition. This means that you can run your notice longer than you would with a print version. You can also easily share the notice with family living abroad. And more people are likely to see it online.

The people in this study varied in age and came from diverse backgrounds, yet the majority believed that obituaries were an essential part of the end-of-life process. Now that affordable online resources are available, we could see a growing number of obituaries from people who would otherwise be unable to afford space in a traditional newspaper.

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