Dec 27, 2007 - Former Playboy playmate and E! reality TV star Anna Nicole Smith and televangelist and Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell had little in common in life, but they share a distinction in death.
Ditto for Washington Redskins football player Sean Taylor and former first lady “Lady Bird” Johnson.
Smith, Falwell, Taylor and Johnson, who all died in 2007, attracted so many individual remembrances and condolences in their online Guest Books on memorialization Web site Legacy.com that they made the site’s list “2007’s Top 25 Most-Eulogized People Online.”
The victims of the April 16, 2007, shootings at Virginia Polytechnic Institute top the 2007 list; almost 43,000 condolences and remembrances have been offered (through Dec. 11) in the Legacy.com Guest Book for the 28 students and four faculty members gunned down by a troubled student. Second on the list is John Winter, a popular Orlando TV station meteorologist, who committed suicide.
“One of the most striking aspects of the lists is that they blend the slightly gossipy appeal of guest books for celebrities with the very personal, almost religious and familial aspect of remembering more ordinary people,” said Professor Toby Miller, chair of media and cultural studies at the University of California, Riverside, who reviewed the lists at the request of Legacy.com. “The Guest Books commemorate the famous, but also make renowned the suffering of those who aren’t famous.”
Marking the continuing growing popularity of online memorialization, Guest Books for four individuals on the 2007 list also broke into Legacy.com’s list of All-Time Top 25 Most-Eulogized People Online.
Labeled the “granddaddy” of online obituary and memorialization sites by MarketWatch, Legacy.com hosts obituaries and memorials for more than 60 percent of the people who die in the United States and attracts more than 10 million unique visitors each month.
The Web site has largely been responsible for popularizing the online Guest Book, taking it from a novelty a few years ago to a widely accepted way to remember loved ones and offer condolences to families. The site today fields more than 23,000 Guest Book entries daily – or one every 2.5 seconds – for ordinary people remembered by families and friends, celebrities, pro sports stars and individuals thrust into the limelight by the circumstances of their deaths.
All of the more than 20 million Guest Book entries on Legacy.com have been reviewed for appropriate content before being posted online, using a process that combines artificial intelligence and editorial review.