With more than 1,500 newspaper partners and 3,500 funeral home partners, Legacy.com’s vast database of obituaries gives us unique insight into obituary-related trends across the United States. This month, we’re looking at how the length of obituary differs across the country. Here’s why that’s important: Longer obituaries are far more likely to go viral.
“Viral obits” are obituaries of everyday people that circulate rapidly on the internet, outside of the deceased’s hometown and inner-circle, and they are highly valuable tools to increase reader engagement organically. When we analyzed viral obits in our database since 2015, we found that the average character length for these viral obits totaled 3,707 characters, an increase of 143 percent from May’s average obituary length of 1,528 characters. In fact, the shortest viral obit in our database was 2,048 characters, 34 percent more than the average obituary.
Everyone’s life story is different, and so it’s no surprise that all viral obituaries in our database reflect something unique about the deceased: a humorous tale, a self-written farewell, or an honest portrayal of struggles with addiction or mental illness. Engaging content is critical, but it’s still clear that the obituaries that see the most engagement are longer than the average.
Average Obit Length by Region and State
Across the United States, the average obituary length totaled 1,600 characters. Maine had the highest average obit length with 2,554 characters. Alabama had the shortest average obit length with 1,057 characters.
When looking at average obituary length trends across the country, all regions are consistent with the national average. The Northeast, Midwest, and West all skew a little higher than the national average of 1,600 with averages of 1,800, 1,708, and 1,896 characters, respectively; while the South skews just slightly shorter than the national average with an average of 1,528 characters.
Minimum and Maximum Obituary Length by State
Across all states, the longest obituary notice totaled 81,575 characters in one from Oregon. The shortest obituary notice totaled just 29 characters in an obit from Virginia.
Take a look at your state’s longest and shortest obituary, and see your state’s shortest and longest obituary.
States With the Longest Obituaries:
- Oregon: 81,575 characters
- California: 18,796 characters
- Ohio: 14,394 characters
- New Jersey: 12,399 characters
- Texas: 10,851 characters
States With the Shortest Obituaries:
- Virginia: 29 characters
- Illinois: 39 characters
- Massachusetts: 49 characters
- Michigan: 58 characters
- Connecticut: 62 characters
To read last month’s by-State data analysis, Obituary Readers by State: Audience Demographics, click here.
About the Research
For this analysis, we reviewed all obituaries in Legacy’s database from May 2017 and pulled the average character length, maximum character length, and minimum character length for each state.
The study includes all paid, active obituaries in the United States published from May 1, 2017, through May 31, 2017. Obituaries are classified by the states of the newspapers in which they were published. Character count includes raw HTML.
For this study, a viral obit was defined as a top-25 trafficked obit since 2015, excluding Featured Guest Books and celebrity obituaries.