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

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?
Written by Jennifer Leggio, Contributor on

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 Monster.com, has started up a site called Tributes.com, 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 (Match.com, eHarmony.com, EBay, Craigslist, Monster.com, 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 Tributes.com site seems to have taken off. Tributes.com 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 Tributes.com 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 -- 1800Flowers.com, 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 Tributes.com? Let me know in the TalkBacks.

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