The Wired.com article starts this way:

Monster.com founder Jeff Taylor helped you find a job, and helped ease you into middle age. Now he wants to help you build the last web page you’ll ever need.

It goes on to describe Tributes.com, a new website that just launched, that lets users search a database of obits from over 70 years of newspapers.  The site also allows visitors to set up memorial pages and leave condolences.

In effect, they’re going after Legacy.com and other sites which offer similar services.

It’s got smart people and lots of money behind it, so why won’t it work?  Here’s the quote that got my attention:

“We are building a channel to the funeral industry to build our site with them, so we can be an aggregator for all the obituaries,” said John Heald, a funeral director who is working with Tributes.com.

Tributes plans to sell its service to funeral homes that will then package an online tribute with the other services offered to the bereaved. Obits will stay up indefinitely, while condolences may come down after five to 10 years.

Jeff Taylor is a smart guy, and the folks giving him advice have lots experience in the business, but they’ve all overlooked a HUGE problem:  funeral directors aren’t buying new products to add to the other services they already offer to consumers. 

If anything, funeral directors are looking to cut non-essential items so that the price of their basic service isn’t overly-distorted by rising fuel costs and other economic factors.

Before the 2007 NFDA Convention, I discussed this “just add it to the final bill” attitude in the post, Why Funeral Homes Don’t Give Away Free Stuff.

In that post, I explained that such a business model will fail.  Many other established industry companies are seeing how this works, including our friends at Respectance.com.  Here’s what they had to say in a recent blog post on their site:

Funeral home directors are using the internet to buy supplies, you read about it every day, you have national conferences that tell you how your clients are wired. So why don’t you get it? Why do we have to keep banging our heads against a wall just to get you to see, hear and feel? Customers are asking for it, we’re telling you people want it. Listen up!

Later in the post, our friend Richard Derks implores his readers:

It’s time for the funeral homes to put their client’s needs first. It is not only about greenbacks. We at Respectance are listening. We are offering our site and expertise to you FREE to pass it on as a value added service to your clients.

If a site like Respectance, which offers free service, can’t get funeral directors to pay attention, how is Tributes.com going to find takers for a pay service?

If you read the full article, you’ll notice that the company is starting with $4.3 million in capital.  How many other, more worthy ventures could have been started with that kinda cash?  Side note:  Respectance recently garnered another started with $1.5 million.  Reference:  VentureBeat.

And while there’s lots of money being thrown around in an attempt to be THE PLACE for online memorials, funeral directors aren’t even paying attention. 

No, my Magic 8 Ball isn’t very accurate, but I think that Tributes.com will have to transition to a free service and make their money with ad sales within 18 months.  Anyone wanna bet against me?

You can read the full Wired.com article here.

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