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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Local newspapers still heavily rely on obituary placements for revenue, according to data from local obituary and advertising placement firm Adpay, which is owned by Ancestry.com.

Why it matters: Obits, alongside public notice ads, are one of the last remaining consistent revenue streams that local newspapers rely on, although both are being challenged by the digital age.

By the numbers: In total, about $500 million in total annual revenue comes from obituaries, according to Adpay. There are more than a million paid obituaries created annually. For context, the newspaper market in the U.S. brings in roughly $25 billion in advertising and subscriptions combined.

Obituary rates can vary by market. Some newspapers charge obituaries by the number of characters in a piece, while others charge by the number of lines, square inches, or by word count. Others, particularly in smaller markets, price all obituaries at a flat rate, says Deborah Dreyfuss-Tuchman, Director of Business Development at Adpay.

  • Small markets have an average starting package price of about $99 per obituary. The package price is typically the initial offering presented to the funeral director or private party by the newspaper or ad group that is selling the obituaries on its behalf. Small markets are better at selling photos alongside obituaries than medium and large markets because the cost per photo is cheaper. The average price per photo is $25.
  • Medium markets have an average starting package price of about $139. They tend to successfully up-sell additional features, including things like logos of groups that the deceased person was affiliated with.
  • Large markets have an average starting package price of about $94, which is less than the starting package sizes in smaller markets. Overall, they tend to make more money per obituary due to up-charges.

In total, the average revenue for a single obituary in a large market is $486. The average revenue per obituary in small and medium-sized obituaries tends to be around $318.

  • Our thought bubble: The financial strain on newspapers, in which obituary rates increased over the years, makes it easier for the rich to be remembered.

Between the lines: Companies like Adpay and obituary search company Legacy.com have mostly cornered the market. Legacy claims to publish 1 in every 3 obituaries in America.

Be smart: Small markets end up selling packages that are on average as big as medium-sized markets because families are more likely to purchase additional days for the obituary to print, says Dreyfuss-Tuchman.

  • Families and friends of loved ones are also more likely to buy additional copies of the print paper where the obituary ran and are more likely to buy distribution in nearby weekly papers as a part of their package.
  • Obituary vendors are also raking in cash through up-selling customers. The CEO of Legacy.com said in a 2017 interview with Slate that the company makes just as much money on its website these days as it does selling flowers to grieving families.

Yes, but: Like all print media products, digital and social media is making it easier for some families to skip out on obituaries altogether.

  • Funeral directors are starting to place obituaries for free or at a very low cost on their websites.
  • The rise of free death notices is also impacting the industry. Some newspapers, recognizing the need to start charging for obituaries, started condensing death notices a few years ago down to just a very few short words for free, with the hopes that people would pay extra for fuller obituaries.

What's next: One of the ways local media companies are trying to get more money out of the obituary market is by continuing to allow funeral directors to purchase obituaries in multiple markets within one order entry.

  • This makes it easier for people to get obituaries out to other markets where people may have once lived, retired to, had vacation homes, etc.
  • In total, Adpay says it increased incremental obituary revenue by $19 million last year just by up-selling to more local markets within single orders.

Go deeper: How tech platforms handle a user's death

Go deeper

More corporations are requiring workers to get vaccinated

Graphic: Axios Visuals

Life for the unvaccinated could get more difficult as bosses increasingly move to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory.

The big picture: The federal Government in May said that it is legal for companies to require employees to get vaccinated for coronavirus.

White House: Over 500,000 new shots recorded Friday, highest since July 1

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The United States recorded more than half a million new COVID-19 vaccine shots on Friday, the highest number since July 1, White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

Why it matters: The Delta variant is continuing to spread across the United States and it now comprises over 80% of the coronavirus cases in the country, Jean-Pierre said. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that "vaccination is the most important strategy to prevent severe illness and death."

Biden to announce sanctions, other efforts to address crisis in Cuba amid protests

Photo: Sarah Silbiger/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden will announce sanctions against one entity and two Cuban individuals this afternoon and provide details on his administration's efforts to improve internet connectivity in Cuba, a senior administration official said Friday.

Why it matters: After initially hoping to place the issue on the back burner, the White House has recently ramped up its focus on Cuba amid protests on the island and in the United States, congressional backlash and political pressure from the South Florida Cuban community.

  • The president is also expected to make announcements on remittances and plans for U.S. embassy augmentation, the official said.
  • The official noted that the administration is in talks with private sector providers about the possibility of providing wireless LTE communications to the Cuban people.
  • "Given the protest of July 11, it is important for U.S. diplomats to engage directly with the Cuban people and if we can do that in a way that ensures the safety of U.S. personnel, that is something that we will undertake," he said, noting that the president would announce more details later this afternoon.

The details: The president will meet today with Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), a Cuban-American, and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), among other political and community leaders and artists.

  • Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), an outspoken voice on Cuban issues, is not expected to attend the meeting.
  • The meeting follows a series of engagements by Cedric Richmond and the Office of Public Engagement with the Cuban-American community, the official said.

What they're saying: "We're gonna do everything we can to keep Cuba on the front burner, so we can keep the conversation on the rights of the Cuban people and their rights to manifest peacefully," the official said on the call with reporters.

Be smart: Cuba is a tricky political issue for Democrats, who are split on the matter. The president was defeated by Donald Trump in South Florida during the 2020 election, and Democrats fear similar results, particularly in the upcoming midterms, if they mishandle the situation.

Go deeper: The newly announced sanctions today will follow already imposed sanctions against Cuban officials and entities allegedly responsible for human rights abuses during the government's crackdown on island-wide protests earlier this month.