The Changing Face of Obituaries

The Changing Face of Obituaries main image

Obituaries have long been used as, a form of news item, to report the death of a person. In national newspapers, the obituary section concentrates on celebrities, politicians, statesmen, criminals and others who made a significant contribution to society (for good or bad) during their lives. 

A typical obituary provides a commentary on the life and achievements of the deceased and will sometimes provide details of the funeral arrangements. For less celebrated subjects, obituaries have tended to be found in local newspapers. Their length and depth usually depended on the standing of the deceased in the local community, with senior businessmen, local politicians and community figures receiving greater attention to their life and achievements. Short obituaries, with minimal detail, tend to be reserved for those written for family members. 

The development of the internet and the ability of the public to use it, coupled with the fact that more and more local newspapers are reducing the frequency of their publications or going out of business altogether, has brought about a change in how obituaries are published and online obituaries are increasing in popularity as a replacement, alternative or supplement to the traditional press report. 

Online Obituaries 

  1. Online obituaries attract people for various reasons.
  2. An online obituary service allows the rapid reporting of a death in a way that is not always available in the press. There is a limited amount of space available in most newspapers’ obituary sections and if this is already taken, a particular announcement may have to wait until a later edition. In the case of local newspapers this may be the following week. This is clearly problematic for the next of kin, especially in terms of publicising funeral notices. 
  3. Many online obituary services are interactive. This means that, unlike in a newspaper publication, many family members and friends can contribute their own thoughts, memories and condolences to one another through the website. 
  4. It is far easier to ensure that an online obituary reaches its intended target. It is simply a case of emailing, texting or using social media to send a link to the web address of the obituary to everyone who would like to access it. This is especially helpful where the deceased has moved from one town to another, making it difficult for friends and family in every town to access an obituary placed in a local newspaper. 
  5. Online obituaries are ongoing, allowing continuing communication and interaction, helping to keep the memory of the deceased alive in the hearts and minds of the bereaved. 
  6. Because they are intended to be shared amongst family and friends, online death notices are often written in a less formal, more personal tone than newspaper obituaries, which are available to all the public to read, and it is, in fact quite easy to write an obituary.   

How to Write an Obituary 

  • There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to writing obituaries but there are various matters which should be included. These are:
  • Confirmation of the name, address and age of the deceased.
  • An announcement of the death, including the date and, if desired, confirmation of the cause. 
  • A biographical commentary, setting out some of your important memories and/or the deceased’s important achievements.
  • Information about the deceased’s family, detailing the loved ones who have been bereaved.
  • Details of the funeral arrangements.
  • To further personalise the obituary it is usually possible to upload photographs of the deceased and other members of the family.   


We are turning to online services in so many areas of our lives and the writing of obituary notices is no exception. With improved access to, and knowledge of how to use, the internet, coupled with an increase in the number of providers, online obituaries are clearly here to stay.

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