When a loved one passes away, placing an obituary in local newspapers is a traditional way to announce the death and share memories. But with print publications declining in readership, you may wonder if newspaper obituaries are still worth the cost in today’s digital age.
Obituary rates can vary widely depending on length, photos, special formatting, and other factors. This comprehensive guide examines pricing, formatting best practices, cost saving tips, and the pros and cons of print versus online obituaries. Arm yourself with information to make the best decisions on honoring your loved one within budget.
Placing obituaries in print newspapers brings local tradition and fitting closure when loved ones pass. Yet with the cost of an obituary from $100-500+ depending on length, photos, formatting, etc., they can also impose additional burdens for some families. Careful planning provides affordable options to memorialize lost friends and family.
Here are some things covered in this guide:
- Newspaper obit costs typically range from $100-$500+ based on length, images, formatting, paper selected, and run days.
- Keep core details concise including vital information on the deceased, surviving family, services, and funeral home.
- Optimize wording to minimize length and unnecessary extras that increase pricing.
- Compare community paper vs metro newspaper rates. Smaller publications are often cheaper.
- Leverage free online obituaries to supplement print versions and contain more details.
- Request nonprofit pricing if cost is an obstacle. Some papers offer discounts.
- Add the full obituary to the printed funeral program to share with attendees.
- List donation preferences for a cherished charity of the deceased as an outlet for giving.
How Much Does a Newspaper Obituary Cost?
Most local and national newspapers charge between $100 and $500 for obituary fees based on length, generally by the line or by the word. The longer the obituary, the higher the price. Average costs break down as:
- Short 1-2 paragraph obituary – $100-$150
- Typical obituary with photo – $150-$300
- Long, detailed obituary – $300-$500
- Extra lengthy life story obit – $500+
Pricing averages around $8-$12 per line, though ranges from as low as $5 per line to $20+ per line depending on the publication. Budget approximately $100-$300 for a standard obituary of 8-12 lines/100-150 words without a photo.
With the addition of a photo, expect costs closer to $150-$400. Very lengthy obituaries with maximum details or multiple photos can cost $500+. Funeral homes and obituary assistants are familiar with local pricing and can guide you on rates.
EverLoved.com reports that the cost of a newspaper obituary can range from $50 to $1,000, depending on the size, location, and publication. They also mention that many newspapers charge additional fees for online publication, which can range from $50 to $100.
JoinCake.com states that the cost of a newspaper obituary can vary depending on the location, length, and publication. On average, you can expect to pay between $50 and $100 for an online-only newspaper obituary.
TitanCasket.com reports that the cost of an online obituary is usually between $50 and $100. They also mention that the cost of a newspaper obituary can vary depending on factors such as location, length, and publication.
Legacy.com reports that the average obituary costs anywhere from $100 to $800 or more, with rates varying depending on where you choose to publish, the length of the obituary, and whether you include a photo.
Neptune Society.org and NationalCremation.com both report that the average obituary can easily be $200 to $500, with costs varying by publication and depending on factors such as length and photo inclusion.
The Los Angeles Times offers an average obituary package that usually ranges from $1,000 to $1,500.
Trustworthy.com reports that the cost of publishing an obituary in a newspaper can range from $100 to $1,000, with costs varying depending on factors such as location, size, and publication.
Some of the factors that influence per-line or per-word pricing include:
- Newspaper circulation size – Major metro dailies usually cost more than small community papers
- Photo inclusion – Color photos or black-and-white images add to the base cost
- Special formatting – Bold text, custom fonts, or special treatments increase fees
- Run duration – Running for multiple days instead of a single day adds to the total cost
- Volume discounts – Pricing may decline for multiple obituaries or repeat customers
When planning, get an accurate quote on rates directly from the newspaper(s) you are considering. Fees can climb quickly for long, detailed, or highly formatted obituaries. Photos also warrant an upcharge. Understand the pricing structure to avoid budget surprises.
What Does a Basic Obituary Include?
A standard obituary is relatively short, averaging 8-12 lines or 100-150 words. It includes key facts and announcements like:
- The name, age, and hometown of the deceased
- Date and cause of death (optional depending on family’s wishes)
- List of immediate surviving family members
- Date, time, and location of funeral or memorial services
- Name of the funeral home handling arrangements
- Optional short phrase or sentence about the person (beloved mother, avid golfer, etc)
- Optional favorite charity names for memorial donations instead of flowers
The focus is on logistical details surrounding services and key survivors. Some families opt to include a brief description of the deceased or interests, professional affiliation, military service, etc. But verbose narratives are best saved for eulogies and online remembrances. Avoid lengthy, literary obituaries in print publications where cost is calculated by length.
Tips for Reducing Obituary Costs
While honoring loved ones is priceless, newspaper obituary charges can still impose financial burdens, especially with multiple family members passing in quick succession. If cost is a concern, here are some tips to lower overall obituary expenses:
- Keep length tight – Condense details to bare essentials. Avoid long paragraphs or extensive lists of distant relatives and friends. Reduce word count wherever possible.
- Skip photos in print – Headshots or collages add $50+ each to the cost. Use free online memorials for photos instead.
- Run 1-2 days maximum – Extra run days in multiple papers double or triple cost. Stick to the day(s) closest to services.
- Compare publication rates – Small community newspapers and shoppers are often much cheaper than major metro dailies for the same obit.
- Post online only – Online memorials cost less, allow more content, and reach wider audiences through shares.
- Request discounted nonprofit rate – If cost is an obstacle, some papers may offer reduced nonprofit/religious rates. Doesn’t hurt to ask politely.
- Inquire about volume discounts – Papers may discount for multiple obit placements. Worth asking if planning services for multiple family.
- Split cost with funeral home – Many include a basic obit as part of services. See if they’ll cover the bulk of the fees.
Keeping word count tight and eliminating extras like special formatting and images offers the easiest ways to control expenses. Weigh printing in high-cost metro papers versus community publications. Digital memorial options provide more flexibility and value worth considering as well.
Should You Include the Full Obituary in the Funeral Program?
Funeral program booklets present another opportunity to include the full obituary, often more affordably than newspaper placement. Programs average around $.50-$1 per copy, so adding the obituary increases printing costs but not prohibitively with typical 100-200 program quantities.
Because cost is calculated based on total programs versus per-word rate for newspapers, it can be an economical option to ensure everyone attending the service receives the complete story on the deceased.
Including the unabridged obituary also avoids the often unsatisfying newspaper versions edited down due to high word rates. The funeral program keeps content intact in one place for mourners. Just balance length to fit space available in the program.
Focus on the most meaningful highlights – years lived, key survivors, passions, career milestones, charitable causes, or thank you message to guests. This provides the complete picture of your loved one for everyone present to cherish.
How Do Online Obituaries Compare to Traditional Newspaper?
In the digital age, online memorials offer additional choices versus newspaper-only obituaries. Some key differences include:
Wider and Ongoing Visibility – Online obituaries are viewable anywhere globally, expanding visibility well beyond just the local printed newspaper’s community. Friends and relatives everywhere can view and share digital obits through social media and email. Newsprint is limited to metro circulation.
Lower Cost – Basic online memorial packages on funeral home websites or obituary sites like Legacy.com start around $50-$100 typically. Additional length, photos, videos, guestbooks, and expanded interactive features can be added a la carte at reasonable rates.
Customizable Interactivity – Guestbooks allow viewers to post memories and condolences. Photo uploads let mourners share special images. Links provide connections to CHARITY websites or donation pages. Print obits are static.
Searchable and Shareable – Online obituaries are indexed by search engines and easily shared on social networks, expanding access. Newspaper notices are ephemeral and difficult to find again later.
Evergreen Historical Record – Digital obituaries remain published indefinitely for future generations to view. Newsprint lasts a day. Online creates a lasting historical memorial.
Multimedia Options – Online allows embedding slideshows, videos, audio clips and more multimedia elements difficult to include in print obituaries. Digital provides richer storytelling tools.
For maximum visibility, many families now publish both traditional print newspaper obituaries as well as detailed online memorials. The combined approach provides the best of both worlds across ages and geographies. Evaluate options during planning.
Should You Include Charity Donation Information in Obituaries?
If the deceased individual had a cherished charity, cause, or nonprofit organization they ardently supported in life, including relevant donation information in obituaries provides mourners an ideal outlet to honor their memory.
List the name of the organization, mailing address, website, and any specific instructions on how to direct memorial gifts. For example:
“In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the American Cancer Society, 250 Williams St, Atlanta, GA 30303 in memory of John Doe.”
This provides mourners who wish to give back in remembrance easy direction on where to send condolence contributions.
However, be sure to avoid wording that pressures or implies expectations of specific donation amounts. Wording like “minimum $50 donation requested” or “$500 pledged donations preferred” should be avoided. Keep the request simple and purely voluntary.
Also limit the number of charities listed to 1-2 primary organizations so mourners aren’t confused on where to give. The focus should remain on memorializing the deceased, not promoting charitable causes.
What is an Appropriate Length for Obituaries?
There are no set rules or word limits on obituary length. But print newspaper pricing calculated by line/word does impose natural constraints tied to budget. To balance meaningful details with cost, here are some general obituary length guidelines:
- 1-2 Paragraphs – For very basic information-only obituary containing just the essential facts
- 8-12 Lines/100-150 Words – Typical obituary covering key details in succinct format
- 15-25 Lines/200-300 Words – Expanded obituary allowing additional personal, professional, or legacy details
- 30+ Lines/400+ Words – Lengthy, narrative obituary telling a life story
Aim to keep newspaper obituaries on the shorter side around 8-15 lines or 100-250 words maximum. This allows inclusion of the most salient life details and announcements within budget. Save very long narrative remembrances for online memorials or printed materials like funeral programs with more room.
Let length and detail be guided by meaningful content vs. arbitrary cost constraints. Remember that succinct well-written obituaries can be equally moving tributes.
How to Write an Obituary
When you write an obituary for a loved one amidst grief can feel like an impossible task. Where do you start? What to say? Here are some tips on obituary content and templates to guide you:
Open With Key Facts – Start by introducing the deceased in 3 lines or less. Name, age, hometown, and date of passing provide the overview.
Mary Ellen Jones, 72, of Rockville MD, passed away Tuesday, January 17, 2023.
Note Immediate Family – The next few lines list closest family members who survive them. Spouse, children, grandchildren, parents, siblings in order.
Beloved wife of James for 50 years. Cherished mother of Michael, Susan (Mark), and Jennifer (Tom). Adoring grandmother of 7. Daughter of the late George and Margaret White.
Share Service Details – Include date, time, location of the funeral, memorial service, or life celebration and name of the handling funeral home or funeral director.
A memorial service will be held on Tuesday, January 24 at 10:30am at Holy Redeemer Church in Rockville MD. In care of Moore Funeral Home, Rockville.
Add Optional Personal Touch – You may add a short 1-2 line description of the person or their passions.
Avid world traveler who visited 6 continents. Devoted and selfless nurse for over 30 years at Mercy Hospital.
Suggest Charitable Donations – Optionally include name of charitable organization(s) to support in memoriam.
Memorial gifts may be made to Susan G. Komen Foundation in memory of Mary.
Close With Appreciation – Thank attendees and express gratitude for condolences.
The family wishes to thank friends and loved ones for their outpouring of support during this difficult time.
Follow this general structure, then customize details. Omit any sections you wish to remain private. Add other personal touches that honor your loved one within available space.
Should You Publish Obituaries in Multiple Newspapers?
If the deceased person was known prominently in multiple cities or regions, placing the obituary in several newspapers may be appropriate to spread the news efficiently. However, remember that each paper will charge separately, increasing costs exponentially. Some approaches to consider:
- Run fully in the deceased’s current hometown paper, then minimal 1-2 paragraph versions in other cities/towns for announcing key service info without redundancy.
- Compare rates between community papers and major metro dailies. Often smaller town papers offer lower pricing.
- If costs are prohibitive, use online obituaries accessible everywhere instead of multiple print placements.
- Leverage social media and email shares to spread links to a single main digital obituary beyond geography.
One well-written obituary placed strategically in the primary newspaper of record, supplemented with online memorials, often eliminates any need for redundant multiple print versions. Evaluate reach versus budget tradeoffs.
How Soon Should Obituaries Be Submitted to Newspapers?
Obituaries should be submitted to publications as soon as possible, ideally within 24-48 hours of the death occurring. However, most newspapers accept obits up to 72 hours before the planned publication date.
Timing the publication date is important – obits generally should run starting 1-2 days before funeral/memorial services take place through 1-2 days after. Submit yours to correspond with those key dates.
Also confirm the newspaper’s publishing deadlines for obituaries. Typically, they are due late morning for inclusion in the next day’s edition. Missing the cutoff may delay publication by a full day. Know the requirements.
Do People Still Read Newspaper Obituaries Today?
While print newspaper circulation has declined industrywide in the digital age, obituaries remain a widely read content section by both subscribers and newsstand purchasers. Recent studies show:
- 63% of U.S. newspaper readers turn to the obituary section routinely. Obituaries remain in top 5 most read sections.
- Online obituaries receive 4X more pageviews on average versus other news articles. They retain strong readership.
- 7 in 10 adults over 40 have researched obituaries for genealogy, curiosity or investigating deaths of friends/family.
So while overall newspaper readership wanes, obituaries maintain loyal readership. They provide valued community and family news not easily replicated elsewhere. Yet online tributes continue growing in popularity given accessibility and multimedia capabilities.
In today’s fragmented media landscape, publishing both in print community papers and online maximizes visibility across all ages.
Crafting meaningful, thoughtful tributes need not drain finances. With prudent advance planning, you can share personal obituaries across print and digital that honor your loved one’s legacy within budget constraints.