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This article was published 27/1/2011 (2181 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The death business is embracing the YouTube generation.
Funeral homes in Winnipeg and around the world are increasingly offering DVDs of funeral services to their clients to ensure no loved one or friend misses out on a final tribute.
"When we suggest it, it has been very well-received. It's almost a relief. They say, 'Thank God, my cousin or my brother can't come. Now they'll at least be able to watch the service,'" said Richard Rosin, funeral director at the Neil Bardal Funeral Centre.
Rosin said Neil Bardal recorded its first service back in the late 1980s for a person who had family in Australia -- it had to be transferred onto special tapes that could be played Down Under -- and dabbled in it for years afterwards. Demand started to pick up four years ago, and the funeral home officially added video to its list of services last summer.
"With technology the way it is today, it's assumed we can do certain things (at funeral services). People say, 'Can we have a video tribute, run a PowerPoint presentation and plug in an iPod?' We have to be prepared for all this stuff," he said.
The additional costs for the video option are small compared to the total expense for a service. Rosin said a typical program could cost about $3,500, but the video portion will only set customers back another $100 ($300 if the service is off-site in a church).
Here's how they work: After the death of a loved one, family members can create an event through a participating funeral home's website and forward invitations to potential guests. It's similar to sending out an e-vite to a party. Viewers can then log in to watch the service live or view it from the archives days or weeks later.
The portal for Neil Bardal's webcasts is provided by Sympathynet.com, a New York-based firm specializing in funeral broadcasting. Its president, Paul Generowicz, said the firm has done more than 20,000 webcasts since getting into the business four years ago, and he's expecting the pace to pick up.
"It's the way of the future. I don't have to tell you about Facebook. People are communicating online. (Funeral webcasts) are a tool that helps a grieving family reach out to family and friends who because of illness, geography, or financial reasons, can't attend a funeral. It's really giving families an option that they didn't have five or six years ago," Generowicz said.
Mosaic Funeral, Cremation and Cemetery Services on Inkster Boulevard is also in the video business. Its webcasts are handled by Winnipeg-based Webcasting Central Ltd. Colin Hay, a partner at Webcasting, said even though the services are available anywhere on the globe where there's an Internet connection, families can still keep them private with password protection.
"We make sure the family members are the ones that designate who gets to view it," he said.
Hay said webcasting provides services to a dozen funeral homes in North America, ranging from small church gatherings to memorials in arenas.
Rosin said the webcasts are the next best thing to being there in person. During a recent service for a person who had extended family in the Caribbean, the minister mentioned the online viewers during his remarks. Minutes later, a text message arrived from the islands thanking the minister for doing so.
"As soon as that happened, it was like they were in the room. It made them feel a part of it," Rosin said.
Boomers bring a boom
People in the funeral business aren't prone to shouting from the rooftops, but there's no question they're in a lucrative sector. Manitoba's baby boomers are either in or entering their retirement years, and that can only mean business is sure to rise.
Manitoba's Vital Statistics Agency reports there were 10,005 deaths in 2009, down slightly from 10,096 in 2008, and up from 9,984 in 2007.