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Is the Business Card Dead? 370

theodp writes "Attending SXSW, HBR's Susy Jackson was dismayed to find her beloved business cards no longer carried the cachet they did back in the day. Writes Jackson: 'I had a lovely conversation with two young entrepreneurs from New York and when it was time to part ways, I used that old line: 'Here, let me give you my card.' They both paused, looking unsure about whether or not I was serious. Then I saw the understanding wash over them. I was speaking a forgotten language. A business card. How precious.' And while Jackson appreciates the convenience of exchanging e-business cards, Twitter handles, and phone numbers (texting), she's still a softie for a good business card: 'Some cards are plain; others speak to their holders' personalities through odd trim sizes, quirky color schemes, or clever word play. Each will tell me something more about the person who gave it to me than I could have known from their contact info alone.' So, how telling are The Business Cards of Tech Giants?"
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Is the Business Card Dead?

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  • No (Score:4, Informative)

    by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Thursday March 17, 2011 @05:32PM (#35522792) Homepage

    They may not carry much importance, but yes they still get passed around in meetings.

    • This times a thousand. They are useful little things to have and pass around. Just this week I was asked for my card.

      • Re:No (Score:4, Insightful)

        by isopropanol ( 1936936 ) on Thursday March 17, 2011 @06:12PM (#35523324) Journal

        How else are you to swap twitter ID's, email addresses, etc?

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward
          By sending electronic business cards. I haven't used paper business cards since the late 90s, when I could just beam my e-card via my Palm PDA (back then almost every single techie owned a Palm or compatible PDA). These days I can do the same by sending my e-card with my phone via SMS, email or even by displaying a QR code on my phone's screen and letting whoever wants my contact info to snap a shot of it with their own phone.
        • Bump it?

          http://bu.mp/ [bu.mp]

          I hate Business cards, always lose the damn little things.

        • by h4rm0ny ( 722443 )
          And encryption key fingerprints. That's what's on mine!
      • by blair1q ( 305137 )

        I haven't given anyone a business card since 1992. I have a box of them, printed by my employer at the time. I use them to floss my teeth, clean scunge out of my watch-band, and write down network config parameters that I need to sneakernet elsewhere (though I never have to do that any more either).

        Everything I need to know about someone I can get from the network, and the network is always with me.

        • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

          by BoberFett ( 127537 ) on Thursday March 17, 2011 @06:27PM (#35523484)

          You need to know the person's name to look them up presumably? How do you remember their name a week after you get home from a tiring conference? Write it down perhaps? What if they could give you a pre-printed card with the name already on it...

          It's so crazy, it just might work.

          • Re:No (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Iron Condor ( 964856 ) on Thursday March 17, 2011 @06:38PM (#35523564)
            Actually, that exactly what I have on my business card: my name. That's it. Not even my company. Makes people do a double take - and guess who they remember from that meeting: All those forgettable task-managers and project-element-managers and systems engineers - or that guy who just put his name on the card?
            • Re:No (Score:4, Funny)

              by RooftopActivity ( 1991792 ) on Thursday March 17, 2011 @06:51PM (#35523708)

              Condor? Is that you? I've been trying to get in touch with your for months!

        • Everything I need to know about someone I can get from the network, and the network is always with me.

          What is this, a Verizon commercial?

    • by ackthpt ( 218170 )

      They may not carry much importance, but yes they still get passed around in meetings.

      I sure wish I had some. My employer doesn't foot the bill for them much, I suppose because they suspect many just drop them in fishbowls for draws for coffee, dinner, iPads, etc.

  • I'd say it's more of a easy and free note to yourself.

  • Nope [buzzfed.com]
  • Please. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DWMorse ( 1816016 ) on Thursday March 17, 2011 @05:35PM (#35522842) Homepage

    No way. I even had my own personal 'business' card made ($9 for 500 is good, right?) and they get me free lunches from places like Perkins and Dennys all the time.

    That $9 has saved me at least $50 so far, and I get to carry card that says "Back off, man. I'm a scientist."

  • by adonoman ( 624929 ) on Thursday March 17, 2011 @05:36PM (#35522854)
    Business cards give you a quick and easy way to exchange all those bits of contact info. It's either that or we both sit and stare at our phones for a while typing in names and numbers etc.. making sure spelling is correct, etc.. With a business card, I hand it over and the actual details can be handled later. Obviously, if there was some standard way to hit a single button on phones and tap them together to exchange information, that would be easier - but at this point even everything like that just takes too much fiddling.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by SalsaDoom ( 14830 )

      More than this, you can now easily put a 2D barcode on your business card so it can be scanned into a phone quickly and easily. I'm a entrepreneur and I wouldn't be without my business cards. Nerds might think they are outdated, but nerds aren't the usual people that you do business with. A lot of this sounds like the sort of tech-snobbery that losses sales to more pleasant people. They are also perfect for writing short notes on too.

      No, business cards are very important. There are also legal reasons for ke

    • by jockeys ( 753885 )

      Obviously, if there was some standard way to hit a single button on phones and tap them together to exchange information, that would be easier

      Try the Bump application for smartphones. Does exactly what you are describing. Only downside is that is has to be installed on both phones. DISCLAIMER: I'm not affiliated with Bump, except that I use it and like it.

      • by adonoman ( 624929 ) on Thursday March 17, 2011 @05:56PM (#35523164)
        Again with the fiddling - I have to make sure that the other person has a phone that can run the app, and has the app installed. Then I have to let them know I intend to use the app to transfer my contact info, and we both have to run the app. Various PDAs have had similar functionality for a while, but again with very limited use. Bluetooth is at least standardized, but takes forever to connect and transfer data. I can have my business card in your hand in less time than it takes to wake up your phone, and it requires nearly 0 effort on your part to receive it - just pocket it for now, and decide later what to do with it. It doesn't even require interrupting the flow of conversation.
        • Fully agreed. I don't have Bump, even though I have an iPhone. It's a critical mass issue--I'm not going to install something that only a fraction of a fraction of other individuals use. The only convenient thing about it is that I don't have to manually enter the information at some point, which is what I would need to do with a physical card.

          The beauty of a physical card is that it *always* works. As long as you keep it up-to-date, it will never fail on you. It's also an expression of the personality

        • I miss Palm Pilots--they got this exactly right. Take out your Palms, point them at each other, and in turn, hold down the "Address Book" button for about a second. The entry marked as your personal card is sent over IR, the other person hits "accept", you're done. Nothing on an iPhone even comes close.

      • Or you could keep a 2D barcode on your phone, as a picture. Just open the pic and let them scan it.

        • That's not a bad idea actually? how much data can be shoved into a QR code anyways? could you do a whole Vcard?

          hmm now i have to look

          • by MalcolmT ( 1868 )
            The tech's still a bit flaky on the reading side if you have more than just a couple of pieces of information, however. JWZ did some investigating into this late last year and came away disappointed. I'm sure it will slowly improve over time, but it's nowhere near Just Works yet: See his results [jwz.org] for more details.
        • Or you could keep a 2D barcode on your phone, as a picture. Just open the pic and let them scan it.


          Or you could keep a picture of your business card on your phone. Just open the pic and let them scan it.


          Or you could keep a business card in your wallet. Just give it to them and let them scan it.

    • by geek ( 5680 )

      http://bu.mp/ [bu.mp]

      There is your answer

      • http://bu.mp/ [bu.mp]

        There is your answer

        Oh, yeah, "bump"! I love those animated logos of theirs - though I can't say they're exactly appropriate for business use...

    • Just send a contact via bluetooth, or if you have an iPhone via e-mail or bump. I notice a lot of Japanese use infrared.

      • I don't want to have to deal with a protocol negotiation just to give someone my email address.
    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      When I was young, and visiting outside the US, I noticed nearly all the adults has calling cards for personal use. When I grew up I occasionally used them, but they were not the fad in he US. I occasionally used hem, but not often. Since information was not as consolidated as it is now, these were important tools for social ineracion.

      I also remember when cards were about legitimacy, not just information. Cards costs non-trivial amounts of money to acquire. Unless one was Jim Rockford with a printing

    • Palm PDA's have had this feature for ages. You entered your own information under Contacts, and then selected that contact as your "Business Card". Then, holding down the Contacts button would beam your card to another Palm via infrared. It was fast, and quite convenient back in the days when a lot of business people carried Palm Pilots.

      Disclosure: I still carry a Palm Tungsten T5. I've also used smartphones such as a Blackberry, HP iPAQ, and iPhone 3GS. For the basic functions of contact management and cal

  • This is just silly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Thursday March 17, 2011 @05:37PM (#35522874)

    And while Jackson appreciates the convenience of exchanging e-business cards, Twitter handles, and phone numbers (texting),

    And how exactly does a normal person hand someone new an 'e-business card' without spelling out your email address to them...?

    The whole point of a business card is that I don't have to spell out my name, phone number, and email address to people in person.

    • by metlin ( 258108 )

      Exactly. I do not know who the hell this person interacts with, but as a consultant, I exchange business cards with people on a very regular basis.

      In fact, I even have personal business cards [metlin.org] -- as someone who believes in the value of a personal brand and who is very interested in entrepreneurship, this has come in immensely handy.

      Of course, I get mine printed at Vista Print for a measly $10; but if you're interested in creating a good impression, there's always letterpress.

  • Business Cards are still alive and well. They still contain exactly what they always did - who you are and how to get in touch with you. That second part just happens to include e-mail, twitter, web-site, etc.

    Anecdotes aside, until we can shake our cell phones at one another and exchange contact cards then cardboard will continue to be the best way.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 17, 2011 @05:38PM (#35522900)

    They probably paused and look at each other because they dont have a business card and they feel embarrassed.

    • Exactly. Whichever two people she thought were "young and hip", were instead just young and new to the business world. Wait a second... she was at a music festival. If I was hanging out at Ozzfest I might be confused too if someone was trying to setup business contacts and give me their card.
  • by Palestrina ( 715471 ) * on Thursday March 17, 2011 @05:42PM (#35522952) Homepage

    In particular in East Asia, the exchange of business cards is more important. It is not something you just grab and stuff into your pocket. It is part of the formal introduction. You give and receive the card with both hands. You read it over, and comment on it. You store the card carefully. It is a matter of respect. Showing up to a meeting in Korea without business cards is like showing up without pants.

    The exchange of formal credentials, whether letters of recommendation, letters of passage, ambassadorial appointments, charters, etc., has a long and distinguished history, in which business cards are one small part. It is understandable that this might disappear in the US at some time. Of course, in the US it apparently is not necessary for businessmen to wear socks either.

  • I can't believe Bryce prefers Van Patten's business card to mine. :(

  • by srwellman ( 2009052 ) on Thursday March 17, 2011 @05:43PM (#35522970)
    I remember the first time business cards were supposed to die. I was in a meeting at a trade show when someone offered to "beam" their virtual business card to me from their Palm Pilot PDA (remember those?). This must have been like 10, maybe 11, years ago. Has anyone beamed a business card to you recently in a meeting? I suspect not, unless you spend time with people who like using classic PDAs.
    • I remember beaming my contact info at church about eight years ago. It was always awkward and sort of a hit or miss if it would transfer correctly. We had to point them head to head at each other and ask if the other person was ready, then send it and hope that it sent successfully.
      The great thing about business cards is the speed at which you can transfer the information to many people and the ability to have them in places where you aren't. Plus it's not a hassle, you can easily get someones information

      • NFC might revive this trend, but I suspect the business card will endure for at least a little while longer because of its ease of use and relative economy (business cards just don't cost that much to produce and they're easy to carry around).
      • And all you have to do is put all your contact information into a discrete 3d barcode in the corner of the business card, and then read the barcode with your mobile phone camera as you are leaving the meeting. Hightech meets lowtech - best of both worlds.
    • I thought kids just squirted [businessweek.com] their info these days.
  • by DreadPiratePizz ( 803402 ) on Thursday March 17, 2011 @05:48PM (#35523046)
    Look at that subtle off white coloringâ¦the tasteful thickness of itâ¦oh my godâ¦it even has a watermark.
  • What's really sad is that 15 years ago, I could point my Palm at someone and trade contact info by pressing and holding a button. To this day, most Android phones STILL can't properly do bluetooth OBEX... and even if they could, I doubt whether they could exchange contact info with an iPhone.

    • by plover ( 150551 ) *

      Bluetooth has been steadily crippled by phone provider after phone provider. A Sony Ericsson from 8 years ago could do OBEX, could import a menu and remotely control a device, and could browse file systems on remote devices. But then greed happened to the U.S. carriers. Verizon was afraid that if you could send a photo via Bluetooth, you wouldn't spend $0.45 to MMS it. (At least AT&T never sank to that level.) Motorola continually reduced support for OBEX. The iPhone, which never even bother with

  • I have business cards but rarely use them, I tend to receive copious amounts of them but usually they get shoved in my front pocket and thrown away with other bits of trash at the end of the day. Normally if I want or need contact info I will just ask them for an email address and put it in my phone but for more formal meetings they are still useful. Lately I have been giving out usb thumb drives with my contact info printed on them, I've had more clients from those than any business cards I have ever hand

  • Back in the 60's they correctly predicted we'd all be using fusion reactors to power our future, we'd be eating our meals in pills, and we'd fly around on jetpacks or use hovercars.

    That was when I knew the business card was dead, just like the fission reactor.

    Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a crabfeed to attend to on the Moon.

  • I went to a networking event recently and, judging by the amount of business cards I took home, they aren't going anywhere in the near future. Maybe the people on the bleeding edge are doing away with the business card, but it's still a staple of businessmen (and women) everywhere.
  • Why don't the smartphone manufacturers build this into every phone, then there's no need to hand someone a card? I know there's the Bump app, but why should I have to count on someone having installed the same app as me just to transfer contact information?

    I hate when I'm going out with a group of friends and we want to exchange cell phone numbers, we have to do the old "Call m number so I can get your number" routine and add contacts for everyone. It'd be much better if there was a standard protocol acros

    • by cosm ( 1072588 )
      I had an idea for a business card with the data stored in RFID. If somebody could create a cheap printer that embeds the RFID chips in them (programmed), and then creates some set of standards that all cell-phone manufacturers start to adopt, you will be rich. Think about it. Give em a card, they wave it by their phone, phone grabs the info and BOOM..."Contact Added!". I think I could work, take it you entrepreneurs! If anything, it would be a cool hack-a-day project. I just don't have the time to make it h
  • by Infonaut ( 96956 ) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Thursday March 17, 2011 @06:17PM (#35523374) Homepage Journal
    In other words, naiive hipsters who don't really know much about business yet think business cards are dead. Judging what's going on in the real world by what you encounter at SXSW is a losing game.
  • I was at an American Chemical Society career symposium a year ago in Pittsburgh and the two biggest things that they encouraged us to use where: (a) Linkedin.com and (b) business cards. And the two go together because Linkedin.com gives you a personal URL with essentially an electronic version of your resume on it. That URL can be put on your business card. While electronic resources are great, there's often times when it just takes too much time to exchange information that way. You can easily swap phone n
    • by blair1q ( 305137 )

      If, and I say if I ever get a business card again, it's going to have nothing on it but a bit.ly address.

  • Two .com Bozos (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Fujisawa Sensei ( 207127 ) on Thursday March 17, 2011 @06:19PM (#35523398) Journal

    'I had a lovely conversation with two young entrepreneurs from New York

    Sounds more like two dot com bozos to me.

  • by petes_PoV ( 912422 ) on Thursday March 17, 2011 @06:22PM (#35523418)
    They contain the basic information necessary to start communication. In that respect they are (and will always be) invaluable. The basic business problem they solve is how to record contact information about people you meet. They're much more professional than scribbling a note on a scrap of paper - and then losing it.

    If those new entrepreneurs were clueless about them, they won't stay in business long because they won't have any contacts.

  • They'll probably wind up like 'calling cards' that were left in a small silver tray in the entrance hall of the person to whom you had paid a social visit, where you picked up their card so you could have the correct information to send your 'Thank You" note.

    Quaint is quaint.

  • by mbone ( 558574 ) on Thursday March 17, 2011 @06:26PM (#35523478)

    Those "two young entrepreneurs from New York" were just embarrassed that they had forgotten to bring (or make) any cards.

    I bet their business plan is full of holes. Forget small things, forget big things...

  • by hsmith ( 818216 ) on Thursday March 17, 2011 @06:31PM (#35523514)
    They are the quickest way to swap contact info. But, they can be bulky if you carry more than a days worth. They are essential for transferring "how do i get in touch with you" in a second. Even if mobile technology improves, I really don't see people pulling out their phones, going to their contacts, and hitting "share" when all they have to do is hand someone a piece of paper with all their info.

    Now, this doesn't mean your card can't have a QR Code or something on it that has all that info that is easily scan-able, but to suggest the business card is dying because some poor startup was too stupid to get 1000 cards for $13 is just hilarious.
  • Until the classic American Psycho business card scene fades from our cultural memory, business cards will not quite be obsolete...
  • You want to know the single most convenient thing is about a business card? I can walk into a bar, chat to a cute girl, and slap my card on the bar with the words, "Rocket Scientist" in bold, black print right under an official company logo. Until I can do that with my cell phone, e-mails, or tweets business cards won't be going anywhere for me.

    And contrary to popular Slashdot memes, chicks really do dig smart guys, especially ones that look officially smart by carrying around business cards.
  • Look at that subtle off-white coloring.
    The tasteful thickness of it.
    Oh, my God. It even has a watermark.

  • by ewg ( 158266 )

    Handing out business cards makes me feel like I'm in "Mad Men"!

"Let every man teach his son, teach his daughter, that labor is honorable." -- Robert G. Ingersoll