Legacy.com, sponsor of our research project into obituaries and death notices, is taking steps to implement some of our recommendations.
And our team’s final report is now available for public release.
Here’s a breakdown of our key recommendations and a summary of Legacy’s responses.
Recommendation: Create a new Web site, Legacy Chronicles, geared to the interests of obituary fans.
Legacy’s response: While the company is not going to create such a site at this time, Legacy has launched a new section of its existing site called “Legacies,” to “address the needs of obituary fans and others who want to explore some of the rich life stories stored in our database,” said Hayes Ferguson, the company’s chief operating officer, in a written response to the class’s recommendations.
The new section organizes obituaries based on common themes, such as actors, poets or Major League Baseball players.
“We plan to expand the number of sites to commemorate people from many walks of life – teachers, police officers, firefighters, doctors, nurses, and others — and to integrate these inspiring sites into every affiliate Web site we host,” said Stopher Bartol, CEO of Legacy.com. “We think this will capture the spirit of what the Medill team envisioned, while expanding the concept’s scope and reach.”
Recommendation: Redesign and reposition Legacy.com to serve grievers and encourage the creation of online memorials to the deceased.
Legacy’s response: The company is making some changes to better serve this audience. For example, Legacy recently added a feature that allows users to “light a virtual candle” in honor of a loved one – an idea specifically suggested by the students. “We had talked about doing something like this for a while, but the Medill team made it clear that the time to do this is now,” Ferguson said.
Recommendation: Improve search technology on Legacy.com
Legacy’s response: By the end of 2010, “we will introduce a powerful new search and notification engine that will provide users easier and faster access to our affiliates’ content, through features such as full text keyword searches, advanced filtering and automated alerts,” Ferguson said. “We appreciate Medill’s focus on the power of our database and for urging us to make search a priority.”
Recommendation: Improve Legacy’s Web analytics system to better understand user behavior.
Legacy’s response: The students’ work “reinforced our desire to improve our Web analytics system to better understand user behavior,” Ferguson said. “We just hired a Web analytics manager to replace one who left Legacy.com shortly before the Medill project got underway.”
Recommendation: Capitalize on newspaper partnerships if possible – but be willing to go it alone if necessary.
Legacy’s response: “We remain steadfast in our belief that our success is intertwined with that of our newspaper affiliates,” Ferguson said. Bartol said that Legacy believes the newspaper relationships are the key to building a successful Web business for both Legacy and its newspaper affiliates.
“While we continue to expand the features and functionality of our memorial products, our emphasis is on building bridges from our newspaper affiliates to funeral homes, social media, and other places where people are paying tribute,” Bartol said. “Ultimately, we’ve found that what makes a memorial the most compelling is the volume and richness of input from those who knew or cared about the deceased, and its reach and accessibility to others. This is something that Legacy.com and its affiliates accomplish like no one else.”