Digital Holiday Cards Go Mainstream

Only a few short years ago we all received a deluge of holiday cards by snail mail this time of year from clients, lawyers, and others we work with. The thought of sending a card digitally was thought to be tacky by many. Those of us who wanted to send a card digitally had to either get the original digital file from the creator of the card, or scan it in ourselves (and depending on the situation turn a blind eye to possible copyright issues).

Fast forward to 2012 and the number of cards we get by snail mail has dropped dramatically, while the number we receive digitally has increased.

Cards have followed the same trend as many other things going digital. In 2002 Wired magazine ran an article entitled “The Great Crossover” that graphically charted several technologies over time, showing sales of analogue versions dropping, and sales of digital versions increasing. The crossover was the point that digital overtook analogue. At that time, depending on what the technology was (e.g. cell phones, cameras, TVs, music, video recorders…) the crossover may or may not have yet happened.

Cards have also followed the general trend we see when anything is converted to digital. The first versions are generally just the digital equivalent of the analogue version that came before it – such as the Harrison Pensa card that I digitized for myself in 2009. But later people realize that digital opens up so many more possibilities. Digital cards now may be static images, but they also may be in the form of a video, or some sort of interactive card, such as the video games that Harrison Pensa sent this year and last.

So do readers like the transition from paper to digital holiday greetings? Or is the whole holiday card thing becoming a relic?



  1. At least one national law firm has sent a video card that relies on YouTube, so recipients in the government of Ontario (and probably other places) can’t watch it. It’s the thought that counts, so the thought that they’re saving us from wasting working hours watching is a kind one.

    In general, though, I doubt that people enjoy receiving time wasters. I like to note the kind regards, think nice thoughts about the sender, and get on with my day. (For cards on paper, I also put them around my office till January.)

    I find amusing that several of the e-cards come with the same ‘privileged and confidential’ notices that attach themselves to the firms’ emails. I doubt that ‘have a happy holiday season and a joyful new year’ is legal advice – though maybe it’s sent in the same spirit as the police card mentioned in yesterday’s press.

  2. I think receiving a paper card can make people feel that much more appreciated and valued. There is that extra effort that goes into making sure you’ve the right mailing address, putting pen to paper to write a short note or just personalizing the card with your written signature. Even adding that postage stamp and ensuring the card is received by the postal service and hopefully on its way to delivery in a timely manner demonstrates that added appreciation. This doesn’t apply merely to friends and family but also to valued customers and clients. Yes, its inefficient but these little inefficiencies can add to a positive in this case.

    Don’t get me wrong, e-cards are fine but there is a time and a place for everything. I don’t think taking time out once a year to show others a little extra appreciation could ever go out of fashion. And as an individual I like to feel that I’m doing my part to keep others employed as little as it may be. Businesses should be conscious of the fact that keeping as many people employed as possible is good for business and good for the economy — as old school as this gesture may be.

    Yes, sending a paper card via snail mail might be a little thing but in my opinion it’s just a nice thing especially during the busy holiday season.