iPublish Media Solutions’ Tributes software is helping fill some of the coffers over at GateHouse Media. As the newspaper giant works away on its buy of Gannett, it’s garnered more than $1 million in new revenue in 2018 publishing special obituary sections using Tributes, according to iPublish.

The SaaS offering from iPublish, available directly from iPublish and also through Legacy.com, allows papers to produce a multiple-page section that honors the recently deceased in a market, yearbook-style and featuring longer obit stories culled from the paper. The print sections vary from six to over 50 pages and typically come out quarterly, although papers can set their own timing as well as specs such as color, display ads and half broadsheet. Along with print, papers generally put the section into their e-editions.

More than 50 publications use or will use the product, including The Washington Post, The Denver Post, the Anchorage Daily News, the Advocate in Baton Rouge, the Toledo Blade and several BH Media papers. The smallest of papers can use the product, according to iPublish.

“This publication is an evergreen product. People are hanging onto it,” said Kim Safran, vice president of sales.

“The community is the most important piece of the puzzle, along with the relationship with the funeral home,” Safran said. The product gives the funeral home another chance to reach out to the family it served, she said, as it can contact the family to provide the section to them.

Along with funeral home ads, many papers have a funeral home directory in the back of the publication or a thank you note to funeral home partners, Safran said. Ad space is also sold to florists and related-industry experts such as grief counselors, estate planners and visiting nurse operations.

A rate increase on obits is another and often larger revenue stream, Safran said.

The product operates on a revenue-sharing model with percents varying based on volume.

Customer idea

The idea for Tributes came to iPublish in 2017 from GateHouse Media, said James Allen, senior sales engineer. “I looked at how much traffic obituaries were getting on the website. I was absolutely fascinated,” said Bob Birkentall, head of vertical revenues at Gatehouse.

“Obituaries are in the top five traffic producing sections in 80 percent of our newspapers. We had all these ideas going around the room about how do we raise the rates?” he said.

“We created a process that streamlined it for them, then we took it to market with our customer base,” Allen said.

Today there are seven Gatehouse newspapers in the program, averaging two to three publications per year for a total of 21 special sections. Aside from some minor resistance to the price increase, “we had a lot of feedback and all of it has been positive,” Birkentall said. “It is a highly profitable section, and we have had very good response from the community.“

Safran says it’s easy for a classified manager or other person to create aTributes section. “We help make the creation of the special section go much more quickly than if you tried to do it by yourself.” She cites one paper that tried to create the section by itself and came back to Tributes.

iPublish is privately held. Co-founders are Andrew Zimmon, James Spurrell and Brian Gorman.

LeadHax

Also on tap at iPublish, which counts traditional classified marketplace and automotive among its offerings, is LeadHax, a digital ad marketplace for realtors.The product was developed in partnership with the Bay Area News Group, part of Media News Group.

LeadHax is meant to help local newspapers compete with AdWerx, a dominator in the field, which launched in 2013. “We need a tool that’s even better than AdWerx,” the Bay News Area team said, according to Safran.

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