Gannett to automate obituaries

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Gannett to automate obituaries

Unread postby Gannettoid » Mon Aug 17, 2009 10:56 pm

Gannett is planning to begin launching self-publishing programs for obituaries in September. According to a memo sent Monday from Annette Gould, Gannett's manager of advertising technology, The Indianapolis Star will be the first site, with a scheduled transition for the week of Sept. 7.

Read the full story at www.Gannettoid.com/obits0817.html
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Re: Gannett to automate obituaries

Unread postby been there » Tue Aug 18, 2009 5:46 am

Gannettoid wrote:Gannett is planning to begin launching self-publishing programs for obituaries in September. According to a memo sent Monday from Annette Gould, Gannett's manager of advertising technology, The Indianapolis Star will be the first site, with a scheduled transition for the week of Sept. 7.

Read the full story at http://www.Gannettoid.com/obits0817.html

[*]

One editor told me during my early newspaper years that people read the obit page first. There's something to be said for a dignified obituary, respect to someone whose life ended. Back in the day I was at the news desk making calls to funeral homes and personally writing obituaries from information provided by the family via the funeral director. This new system seems more than disrespectful, it's horrid.
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Re: Gannett to automate obituaries

Unread postby anonymooose » Tue Aug 18, 2009 2:58 pm

Wave2 will be a miserable failure. Yet another in a long line of bad decisions by Corporate.
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Re: Gannett to automate obituaries

Unread postby MisterWatson » Tue Aug 18, 2009 7:46 pm

Who is going to authenticate these obits? If the public is allowed to submit them directly, I foresee some meanspirited pranks -- and possible lawsuits!
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Re: Gannett to automate obituaries

Unread postby exgannettoid » Tue Aug 18, 2009 9:45 pm

My guess is that this will be a protected website, given to the local Funeral Directors. It will be protected with the standard userID / password. That would make the most sense as doing this would link the Funeral Home to the billing record, making life much easier.

However, any type hacking is possible. I'm also guessing (not really) that a workflow will be in place where Obits placed via self-service will be read and verified locally.
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Re: Gannett to automate obituaries

Unread postby nightstalker » Wed Aug 19, 2009 5:05 pm

Obits are a big money maker for all the papers in the Gannett chain, no doubt about that, so outsourcing or centralizing this makes little financial sense when the tradeoff is lack of interactive customer service. Lose just one ad a day due to poor service or total lack of same, and that is what you would pay the clerk for taking the ad in the first place.
At my paper the obit clerk has to fax a proof to the funeral home, so they can see exactly how the ad will look like in our paper, so how do "they" suggest that we do that with the automated process? In most cases the obit ad use different fonts (that we have paid for, and are not available to the general public), than what is available on Joe Blow's computer, and will then revert to the browsers default format, so no real proof can be seen. Line breaks may also be different and so will graphic placement, at least on the customers end.
Many times the obit clerk makes changes on the fly, and that can also take place in the prepress area, but no more after consolidating this last bastion of true customer service.

What about the memorials, which are placed by real people and not the funeral homes, and many times they don't know what they want but instead rely on the clerk to guide them. They bring in the wrinkled photo and expect the clerk to scan it and return it right away, even on weekends, and that will not happen after consolidation.

I am sure this will happen just like everything else leaked here and on the blog, but not without major issues in the process. Of all places to cut cost, this is one place we really shouldn't be messing with in the first place.
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Re: Gannett to automate obituaries

Unread postby exgannettoid » Wed Aug 19, 2009 8:25 pm

Ah, obits. The first thing any young newsroom, er, ah, Information Center staffer learns to write.

While I don't disagree with anything you've said, NightStalker, the same debate happened a decade ago when Obits were moved from the newso, er, Information Center to the advertising space.

No one in Classified can get this right.
It'll be all screwed (or insert your favorite word here) up!
This will never work!

Well, lo and behold, it worked. Sure, they are not the same. But the newspaper is not the same now as it was 10 years ago either. And it won't be the same in the future.

However, moving as many customers to self-service as possible makes some good business sense. I mean, if the Funeral Directors are doing the work; the profit per ad is higher.
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Re: Gannett to automate obituaries

Unread postby nightstalker » Thu Aug 20, 2009 5:53 pm

True some people may have belly ached when obits moved from news to advertising, but I don't recall that being the case where I work. Back then there were no profit in it, because obits were free for residents and former resident of our county.
Then came the paid obits and we saw a decline in the amount of ads placed, but only for a short period before it was back up to, and surpassing, past number of ads placed. The fact was then, that it was free no one could hold the paper accountable for any errors in the publication, but now they do. Funeral homes now just ad the cost (plus their profit) to the total bill for their services, but at the same time ask for perfection since they are now clients of the newspaper.

I just fear that this level of personal attention we currently provide will go to the wayside for the sake of automation and possible greater profits (as I pointed out in the prior post, just one lost customer per day would pay for the obit clerk). The obit ads are a cash cow, a sure thing. People die and their loved ones want to make their passing known to the community. Nothing will change that, not recession, not lower readership or circulation, not lack of content in the paper. Obit ads will always be there.

The logistics regarding formatting and placement will be a cluster f**k, and I fear that this will be just another Gannett venture where we have to pay the mothership for a service we already provide or don't need (GCI comes to mind), just to keep their boat afloat.

Some consolidation has merrit, but not just for the sake of doing it. We should focus on variables, things we can change and increase income with, not mess with something that works. There are plenty of things that doesn't, so look at those first.
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Re: Gannett to automate obituaries

Unread postby Gannettoid » Fri Aug 21, 2009 6:16 am

A memo on this has been posted at www.Gannettoid.com/obits0821.html
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Re: Gannett to automate obituaries

Unread postby ganla girl » Fri Aug 21, 2009 9:14 am

It will work for larger funeral homes with technology and people who know how to use it. Some already offer online obits and guest books. However, my paper deals with rural funeral homes that still use fax machines in addition to the big ones.
From a customer service standpoint, I agree with the posters who say that obits above all benefit from a personal touch. We still have family members come in to place obits. A computer is never going to say "I'm so sorry for your loss."
This is another way in which we lose connection with the communities that support us.
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Re: Gannett to automate obituaries

Unread postby Gannettoid » Tue Sep 08, 2009 1:00 am

A memo with updates has been posted at www.Gannettoid.com/obits0908.html
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Re: Gannett to automate obituaries

Unread postby newsie » Tue Sep 08, 2009 5:03 am

Gannettoid wrote:A memo with updates has been posted at http://www.Gannettoid.com/obits0908.html

Re the memo:

"2. You will be receiving notice soon from Annette that the kickoff schedule will need to shift back 3 weeks. We have run into unexpected delays with getting the production environment in place. However, rates should be submitted as originally requested as it will take some time to review them."

Is this because so many people have been laid off that there IS no production department?
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Re: Gannett to automate obituaries

Unread postby Guest » Tue Sep 08, 2009 9:04 am

So, do you think Gannett will still be giving free obits to former laid off employees that die down the road? They used to, and of course there was no charge if you were currently employed and one of your immediate family members died. I suppose they'll pull the plug (no pun intended) on that too!
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Re: Gannett to automate obituaries

Unread postby Obit director » Tue Sep 08, 2009 10:46 am

All online obit revenue and print obit revenues will fall directly to corporate in a separate bucket. Local sites will be responsible for making up the difference. Legal notices will be next, same process.
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Re: Gannett to automate obituaries

Unread postby So the $10,000 question will be.... » Wed Sep 09, 2009 3:56 pm

Will Gannett place an additional fee for this "service" on the bill for the funeral homes to offset the cost of the technology? Is this cost saved in payroll reduction because human hands don't touch it? How will the process work exactly? Secured website, I can see, but what about times when there is high traffic and the system clogs up like DPS Adtracker? Missed deadlines? How do they plan to proof them?

Many Funeral Homes are also Retail Advertisers, so how would the ad rep explain this to their customer? I'm no longer with the company but these are legitimate questions non-the-less.
So the $10,000 question will be....
 

Re: Gannett to automate obituaries

Unread postby exgannettoid » Wed Sep 09, 2009 4:05 pm

Details of the self-service project are forthcoming ...

Each site is being asked to create a communication plan to its customers. The website will be housed at the Maryland Operations Center, so bandwidth should not be a problem. Locally, in every paper I visited, the system slowness (DPS was mentioned) was due to either network bottlenecks or lack of the local staff to maintain the system.

With the centrally-housed Wave2 application, this should not be a problem as the normal data flow is pretty minimal. However, selects back and forth to get customer information and applicable rates could cause problems.

The MOC staff is aware of the requirements and will make necessary adjustments to the available bandwidth.

At least we hope ...
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Re: Gannett to automate obituaries

Unread postby So the $10,000 question will be.... » Wed Sep 09, 2009 4:50 pm

If I'm reading this correctly, then there will be a human/s in Maryland to help a customer if there is a problem with the system?

Would the process be like say...customers cut and paste from a word document? What is the proofing protocol?

Exgannettoid...are you sure you are no longer with the company? You seem to know a lot about how everything is going down with up to the minute information.
So the $10,000 question will be....
 

Re: Gannett to automate obituaries

Unread postby exgannettoid » Wed Sep 09, 2009 4:54 pm

Trust me, I am no longer with GCI ...
Operational plans are still being developed, however, the plan is for the newspaper to call the MOC for help when it's warranted. Extensive training will be provided, but the MOC will in all likelihood be the first tier of support.

As for proofing ... PDF to an e-mail account.

-30-
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Re: Gannett to automate obituaries

Unread postby Guest » Wed Sep 09, 2009 5:31 pm

ExGannettoid,

We have your back and appreciate your input.

What is sad to me is that I can tell by your posts that your heart
is still with your old job. It shows how much you truly cared.
Lots of well wishes going your way.
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Re: Gannett to automate obituaries

Unread postby FRMRGnttr » Wed Sep 09, 2009 5:54 pm

It was I who was posting to exgannettoid, and yes I too appreciate the input. I'm just a bit of a cynic these days. I'm truly sorry.
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