Obituaries go... social? founder puts death notices on the Web

Obituaries go... social? founder puts death notices on the Web

Summary: I got an email this morning with the subject "Who died today?" I freaked out when I saw it Digsby's Gmail preview and thought, "Do I want to know the answer to that question?


I got an email this morning with the subject "Who died today?" I freaked out when I saw it Digsby's Gmail preview and thought, "Do I want to know the answer to that question?"

Apparently I did because I immediately read the email.

Turns out that Jeff Taylor, the founder behind, has started up a site called, at which consumers can stay informed 24/7 and connected with "accurate obit alerts" for any town in the US, alumni, family name, or military unit.

When I was a sophomore in college I wrote obituaries for The Press-Enterprise. It was a tough job, dealing with the families of the recently deceased and carefully crafting the words I wrote to make sure they paid proper tribute. Never once during my time there did I think, "Wouldn't it be great if all of the family and friends were automatically alerted with an obit?" Then again, the technology to do such things wasn't so widespread in 1993. Taylor and team seem to think there is a need now -- as well as a market opportunity.

According to the company:

  • The obituary market as a $750M-$1B nearly untouched industry
  • Obituaries - “last man standing” – every other classified section has gone online and made millions (,, EBay, Craigslist,, etc.)
  • Newspapers lost $64.5 billion in market value in 12 months in 2008 and are cutting back home delivery
  • 2.5 million people die in the U.S. every year, and 12,000 of those people are turning 50 every day

"Those who like to read the morning obits as much as they like their morning cup of joe won’t have to worry about missing the opportunity to leave a message of condolence or to attend a funeral because of missing the news in the paper," Taylor said.

Not sure I can imagine myself sitting down and listing out all the deaths I'd like to know about. I also can't imagine the heart racing that would occur when I got such an email alert. Perhaps I am in the minority, however, as the site seems to have taken off. has over 82 million current and historical death records dating back to 1936.

Where does the social element come into play? There are interactive grief support resources and a section in which you can "light a candle" for a loved one who has passed. I did a quick search for my father, who passed away in 2007, to see what it might look like:

If I wanted to, I could add music and a picture and a tribute and do the candle lighting thing. However, death is such a personal emotional thing that I can't imagine discussing it on the Web (even though I talk about almost everything else). I'm curious to see how well does. I am sure someone told Taylor at one point that online job listings wouldn't take off, either. The site already has some advertisers --, which is no surprise. The one that I think might be ill-fitting, however, is NutriSystem. What are they trying to tell people, really?

Would you use Let me know in the TalkBacks.

Topics: CXO, Browser, Collaboration, IT Employment

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • It Gets Worse

    There is another site, mem, which not only has the capabilities of tributes, but also is linked to a powerpoint type product that plays music as it goes through pictures of the deceased at the funeral. What was most mortifying was that the company logo was firmly placed at the beginning and the end of the presentation (nothing like a captive audience, right?).

    As a lay pastor I have told my loved ones that when I die I will personally come back and hunt them down if there is a single powerpoint slide at my funeral. As I contemplate it, the same goes for these kinds of sites. Bits and bites are fleeting and extremely impersonal.

    I vote NOOO.

  • RE: Obituaries go

    My mother just passed on Christmas Eve, and this was my first exposure to this website. I, as well as other family members, wrote a few lines to express our love for her, and at the bottom of the message, there is an option to have people contact you. This is done anonymously, as the e-mail addresses are kept by the site, and they forward any messages to you, which is good, because it allows estranged family members to at least contact others for maybe one last attempt at a reconciliation, or to have some personal contact with that person to share in their grief. Of course, not all people will use this part, but it is there!

    I found some peace in seeing others' messages, yet was hurt that noone bothered to contact me personally, but of course, neither did I! It would seem that dysfunction goes on and on, even though we do not!

    I do believe that this site will become our best source of obits... first of all, it's free, at least for a month, OR it is a part of the funeral home's burial cost and you can renew it for as long as you want. Newspaper obits are expensive, and last for a few days, and the newspaper is going the way of the dinosaurs anyway. It's also becoming too expensive to subscribe to a newspaper just to get the obits! I wish them luck, but I don't think they'll really need any luck. They have found their niche, and are filling it!

  • Nutri-system ad?

    Soylent green is people.