Baltimore Sun sees ‘win-win-win’ in obit price test

Stephen Segal

May 1, 2021

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Client placement rate increases 61% with volume-based obituary pricing model

Like the rest of the newspaper industry, the Baltimore Sun, Maryland’s leading daily newspaper, has struggled with declining obituary volume from funeral homes. Legacy helped the Sun design a new pricing model for a test client that yielded positive results for both revenue and traffic.

“We wanted to begin looking at the obituary section as we know it today differently. We know there’s opportunity to grow this category, but we need to do it with and for our funeral home partners,” Amy Houser of Tribune Publishing said.


The Sun’s declining obituary volume was emblematic in a sample client, Sol Levinson & Bros. Funeral Home, whose projected 2020 obit business was conservatively forecast at a 10% year over year (YoY) decrease.


Instead of per-obit, per-length rates, in 2020, the Sun offered Levinson a flat monthly rate that maintained the funeral home’s 2019 spend and removed per-line pricing. In exchange, the funeral home agreed to submit a much larger volume of obits each month, with an emphasis on full text.


  • The client’s obit placement rate in the Sun grew 61% YoY.
  • Total newspaper revenue from Levinson obituaries came in 10% over forecast.
  • Web traffic to Levinson obits grew 13% YoY.
  • The total percentage of all available Levinson obituaries placed with the Sun grew by 50%.


The outsize success of the subscription model continues to positively impact everyone involved.

The newspaper achieved a guaranteed success in meeting the year’s budgeted revenue target with Levinson, which marked a 10% increase over its original forecast.

For the funeral home, the program meant a 39% lower per-family cost, much more easily absorbed with an increase in obit quality at a time when the role of online memorialization assumed a far more important role in end-of-life arrangements.

“The new program has been received so well, and our newspaper placement rate has gone up significantly,” Matt Levinson,president of Sol Levinson & Bros, said. “It really is a win-win-win for the newspaper, our funeral homes and the families we serve.”

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Stephen Segal is the senior director of content development of Email