MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:
The U.S. Postal Service is struggling with huge financial loses. That's partly because people are saying no to snail mail, and instead using the Internet to send party invitations, birthday greetings, holiday cards, all that good stuff.
Now, as part of an NPR series on the challenges facing the postal service, Alex Schmidt reports on the next generation of Internet greetings - e-cards that are integrated with social networking sites.
ALEX SCHMIDT: So the holidays are coming up and I have a ton of people I want to send greetings to. I could go to the card shop down the street, spend some time thoughtfully pondering what to send my nearest and dearest or I can use online greeting service JibJab...
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SCHMIDT: ...and send a mass batch of personalized disco Christmas cards to my friends on Facebook. Gregg Spiridellis is CEO of JibJab.
Mr. GREGG SPIRIDELLIS (CEO, JibJab): Email used to be the primary sharing method. We actually default to Facebook sharing right now because, look, all of my friends are now integrated into the page.
SCHMIDT: On one screen, I can grab my friends' pictures, put them on top of disco dancing bodies wearing Santa Claus hats, and post to friends' walls. For an online greeting company like this one, social networking equals money. The disco card is free. But for most of them, you have to pay $13 annual membership fee. Last year, JibJab processed over one million credit card orders, thanks in part to the boost of Facebook.
Ms. WANDA WEN (Owner, Soolip Store): It's a little bit sad.
SCHMIDT: Wanda Wen is owner of Soolip, a paper card and invitation store in Los Angeles.
Ms. WEN: It's sad that our existence and our community is losing its human touch, humanness.
SCHMIDT: She says taking the time to pick something out and write down a thought is a more authentic gesture than doing it online.
USC digital sociologist Julie Albright points out that when you send an e-card, your whole social network sees it and not just the person you sent it to.
Ms. JULIE ALBRIGHT (Digital sociologist, University of California): It's not just a gift to the person, in a sense, or an honor to the person, you also get some kind of social boost by being the one that sent that card. Everyone sees that you sent that card to that person.
SCHMIDT: But Ron Miller is betting his business that people are going to continue buying paper greeting cards and sending social network e-cards. He owns greeting card company Village Lighthouse, which does both.
Mr. RON MILLER (Owner, Village Lighthouse): It goes hand in hand because, you know, if you have a really important loved one that you really care about, you're not going to send them an e-card. You're going to go into the store. You're going to buy them a card and you're going to write that personal sentiment, in addition to the way that they're doing it on Facebook.
SCHMIDT: If anything, social networks have just created a stronger greeting habit, Miller says. People share sentiments now more than they ever did.
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SCHMIDT: So I'll probably send some disco holiday cards to co-workers on Facebook. But don't worry, mom, next year, your Mother's Day card will be in the mail with a stamp on it.
For NPR News, I'm Alex Schmidt.
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KELLY: And for all you traditionalists, weve put together a scrapbook online of memorable letters youve shared with us. Thats at NPR.org. More ahead on this Thanksgiving Day version of ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.
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