Has the Internet Finally Killed the Greeting Card?

Companies like Hallmark are experiencing hard times as social media and ecards gain steam

Virtual Envelope

Kids these days. They’d rather send ecards than buy a good, old-fashioned greeting card, write a meaningful note, slap on a stamp and send it via snail mail. In fact, one of the most popular online card sites, someecards, is ranked among the top 200 websites in the world by Quantcast. But all of those virtual messages might just be killing the greeting card business, reports NPR’s Frank Morris — a trend that’s causing companies like Hallmark to get nervous indeed.

Morris writes that the former greeting card behemoth has fallen on hard times, even closing a distribution center and laying off hundreds. He reports that the last five years have been particularly brutal to Hallmark, with the workforce dwindling by over half.

The Greeting Card Association, an industry group that represents many of the stationery world’s top names, insists that it’s changing with changing times, citing things like new LGBTQ card lines and close ties with the United States Postal Service as signs of good things to come. But Morris suggests that in order to stay top of mind and in real contention with the instantaneous world of social media, greeting card manufacturers will need to get creative.

If it’s really the thought that counts, greeting card companies (which self-report between $7 and $8 billion in sales each year) may need to simply make their cards cheaper. As the greeting card industry looks over its shoulder, some wonder why non-virtual cards cost so much money. The Atlantic's Derek Thompson estimated that each card costs about $5, a price tag that he simply wasn't sure reflected the card's real value. Thompson eventually concludes that the cost of cards are as much a function of the perceived value of squishy sentiments as things like paper or production costs — while most ecards, texts and social media platforms are free. "Don't don't forget," Thompson writes, "it all starts with you and the spirit of romance. You are paying $5 for a piece of paper because you want to."

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