This is a tough time for jobs sites. And, for that matter, the economy has constrained advertisers from spending on the health content market. So with that in mind, last fall, Monster.com founder and former CEO Jeff Taylor created a spinoff from his healthy living site Eons.com aimed at Baby Boomers with an obit site called Tributes.com. After all, it might be insensitive to say, but while help wanted ads are cyclical, death hardly ever experiences a slowdown. Whether consumers would want to pay for death notices online or in print for that matter is another thing. A piece on Boston.com profiles Taylor and his hopes that consumers will respond more to news about dying than they did about information on health.
Much like the hype that greeted Eons.com, Tributes.com immediately attracted a lot of fanfare when it was introduced in the fall of 2008. It got a pretty nice boost when the WSJ began offering obits powered by Tributes.com. The site has since sparked investment from the likes of Dow Jones (NYSE: NWS), which provided $4.3 million in backing in February. Then, in July, Charleston, Mass.-based Tributes.com picked up another $1.2 million from unspecified new and returning investors in its second round.
— An afterlife for Eons?: As Boston.com points out, when a newspaper runs a death notice, the spot is essentially sold by a funeral home, which charges the family and then pays the paper, which sets the rates. With Tributes.com, Taylor hopes to lure business from funeral directors by letting them charge the families for death notices, while the site collects a flat fee of $125. (The Boston.com item cites a funeral parlor that charges around $295 for death notices). Users can also bypass the funeral homes and go straight to Tributes.com with their notice and pay either $150, or $10 per month, and add their own content, such as photos or other rememberances. Still, the site’s traffic remains very small, especially compared to its established rival, Legacy.com, which had 8.7 million uniques, according to Compete. Eons is barely chugging along at 265,000, while Tributes.com recorded under 7,000 individual visitors, as per Compete.
In any case, it’s uncertain whether Taylor can have a second chance with the burgeoning death notice field. But the growing interest in online obits could take away another lucrative part of newspapers business. In all likelihood, newspaper publishers will likely give in and instead of beating back the challenge, try to find some way to use sites like Tributes.com and Legacy to buttress flagging print revenues, much like many have struck deals with Monster.com or Careerbuilder to help bring in help wanted ad dollars.