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Before You Place an Obituary or Death Notice

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Updated: September 29, 2006

There are several things to consider before deciding to place an obituary or death notice. In addition to those reviewed in this article other helpful tips include:
  • Some newspapers have limited space so do not publish every obituary submitted.
  • Not everyone who dies has a notice in the newspaper.
  • Obituaries chosen to publish have the greatest public interest.
  • Some newspapers publish obituaries or death notices for free; others require a significant fee to publish an obituary or death notice.

Obituary or Obtuary Notice or Death Notice

An obituary is a brief notice of the death of a person, particularly a newspaper notice, usually includes a short biography.

An obituary notice or death notice is a paid listing announcing the death of someone.

One paper defines an obituary notice as "a paid listing, often provided for you by the attending mortuary."

Different Newspapers may use different terms to describe obituaries, obituary notices or death notices. Check the language used for different types before submitting one.

Obituary/Death Notice: A Classified Advertisement

Newspapers view death notices or obituary notice as advertisements or "Death Ads." They are handled by the classified advertising department of the newspaper. These death announcements require payment based on standard newspaper pricing-- specific fee for certain number of words, inches or lines, additional fees for photos.

Fee vs. Free

Fee Publications

  • Larger papers publish paid Obituary/Death Notices. Mortuaries or families write and submit the obit to the paper.
  • Many larger papers also offer Online-only Death Notices for a fee.
Free Publication
  • Some papers run a limited number of lines, a brief announcement for free.
  • Some papers (usually smaller or local ones) publish a longer obituary for free.
  • Most papers will publish newsworthy obituaries (deaths of public figures, prominent locals and celebrities) for free.

Background Research

Major findings discovered by your guide researching obituary fees in 18 different newspapers mainly from major cities around the country include:
  • Only two newspapers, the San Francisco Chronicle and The Seattle Times clearly listed their fees to place an obituary or death notice.
  • Many papers just provide a number to call.
  • All of the major papers were affiliated with the Legacy.com web service.
  • Smaller papers published local resident's obituaries for free.
  • Newsworthy obits were free.

Obituary or Death Notice Costs

Length - Newspapers charge by the inch to publish an obituary. Fees may vary depending on the paper and the location. The Seattle Times charges $88.48/inch for daily and $100.38/inch for Sundays. The San Francisco Chronicle charges $86 per inch.

Photo - A photograph adds an additional fee. For the San Francisco Chronicle the fee was $120. For the Seattle Times a photograph adds an additional $140 - $160 to the cost depending on whether the death notice photo runs on weekday or weekend.

Larger, National vs. Smaller, Local Papers

Larger, National Papers
Many of larger newspapers charge to publish an obituary or death notice, unless the death is judged as "newsworthy." These newsworthy obituaries are written by staff writers. Only those notices with the broadest community interest are published.

Smaller, Local Papers
Newspapers in smaller towns may publish the obituary as a courtesy to locals, or those who spent significant amounts of time in the town. For smaller papers, obituaries may be quite newsworthy events.

More Cost Effective Options: Online

One more cost effective option for the Internet-age is publishing an online death notice or a virtual memorial. These can also be free or fee based depending on the site. Online fees are usually quite a bit less than publishing a notice in print.

Online Obituaries and Virtual Memorials allow family and friends to post their condolences and share their grief online 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Visitors can sign a guest book for family members and friends to read and even leave virtual flowers.

More Cost Effective Options: Sending Out Personal Death Notices

Another more cost effective creative option is to send out personal death notices.

In a major city the fees charged for a newspaper published obituary with a photograph can run well over $600.00. For this ad fee one can easily have cards printed up with the obituary information included as an insert.

Companies can be found who specialize in death announcement, announcement or bereavement cards. Alternatively cards can be created and customize from traditional or non-traditional cards.

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