business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Call it another tradition endangered by 21st century technology.

The Los Angeles Times had a piece the other day about how “to many young and Web-savvy people who are accustomed to connecting digitally,” the practice of exchanging business cards is seen as “irrelevant, wasteful — and just plain lame.”

The story goes on:

“U.S. sales of business cards have been falling since the late 1990s, according to IBISWorld Inc., an Australian business data company with offices in Santa Monica whose data go back to 1997. The slide appears to be accelerating. Last year printers posted revenue of $211.1 million from the segment. That's down 13% from 2006.

“The weak economy has been a factor in recent years. But analysts said printed business cards, like newspapers, books and magazines, are fast giving way to digital alternatives. Smartphones, tablets and social media are helping people connect more quickly and seamlessly than ever before.”

Somehow, this isn;t surprising. Smart phone applications like “Bump” allow people to exchange contact info wirelessly, making business cards seem so 20th century ... though they remain a critical tool for some cultures, especially in Asia.

But what I think is pretty cool is the way that some companies are finding a way to innovate their way through this shift. The Times notes that while “the number of U.S. print shops is declining, some are thriving with the help of e-commerce and innovative new designs. Online printer MOO Inc. specializes in ‘minicards’ that are half the standard size to appeal to eco-conscious entrepreneurs. Others are peddling plastic business cards equipped with flash drives that companies can hand out as promotional freebies.”

And, the story notes, there appears to be no shortage of companies out there seeking a digital replacement for a business tradition seen by an increasing number of people as anachronistic and obsolete.

Just another example, I think, of how cultural and technological shifts create waves of change - some of which drown tradition-minded companies, and some of which offer opportunity to companies willing to consider new and innovative answers to age-old questions.

It’s an Eye-Opener.
KC's View: