Monster.com founder Jeff Taylor was chatting with his mother when he found out that she was a regular reader of newspaper obituary sections. Not only did she read them in her local paper, the Boston Globe, she also followed them in the newspaper of her hometown of Bloomington, Illinois, a place she hadn’t lived in for 50 years, on the off chance that she might read about someone she knew.
It occurred then to Taylor that a lot of the characteristics that made job postings so successful online, such as the ability of users to search in multiple categories and be notified of new events, could also apply to obituaries. He stuck the idea into his mental file.
Fast-forward to 2008, and Taylor, 47, is now putting his long-gestating idea into action. His latest venture, Eons.com, on online community targeted at baby boomers for which he serves as C.E.O., has just spun off a new company called Tributes.com, a website that serves as a clearinghouse for obituaries and death notices. Its revenue is expected to come largely from advertising and hosting fees from funeral homes, but the company will also charge users to create their own tributes to and memorials for loved ones on the site.
“Regardless of which business it is, the consumers have said that their preferred way of getting information is the internet over traditional print,” says Taylor. “For a while, you’ll see obits in both newspapers and on the Web, but my prediction is that eventually they will all be online.” Newspaper owners and publishers must see Taylor as the Grim Reaper, banging another nail into the coffin of their industry, just as he did with classified help-wanted ads.