Google Peter Brock and the first thing you’ll see is a sponsored banner ad for obits.com.au.

Within hours of his death, the site was using Brock’s name as a Google keyword search to publicise its online death notice business.

It all seems a bit soon somehow. And Managing Director of obits.com.au, Meg Tsiamis, admits it’s an “awkward” juxtaposition. Apparently, the company waited for a longer period of time before plugging in Steve Irwin’s name.

Then again, it’s less tawdry than eBay’s ad which pops up on Google at the mention of Brock and Irwin’s names. And how do you advertise an industry that most of us would rather ignore until we need it?

It’s difficult to get the site’s name out there, says Tsiamis. Unsurprisingly, newspapers ban mentions of the site — a direct competitor — in their death notices and the site can’t slot into the “funeral directors” section of the classifieds.

Tsiamis, who has no prior experience in the funeral industry but had started an online business directory, dlook, says she created the site after the death of a “friend of a friend”.

She had trouble locating the person’s obituary in the papers and went looking for a centralised site — only to find that there wasn’t one. At the moment, obits.com.au functions mainly as an online classified site, but it’s aiming to become a hub for funeral industry information.

Meanwhile, the grim reaper already has quite the net presence. Death online, a site produced by the Australian Museum, explores the “last taboo” and the morbid can predict their own death date with Deathclock or take part in a celebrity death tipping competition.

 

Peter Fray

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