According to a U.S. Postal Service study, correspondence such as greeting cards fell 24 percent between 2002 and 2010. Invitations alone dropped nearly 25 percent just between 2008 and 2010. The survey attributed the decline to "changing demographics and new technologies," adding that younger households "both send and receive fewer pieces of correspondence mail because they tend to be early adaptors of new and faster communication media."
While Hallmark says it's committed to the paper greeting card, it has made changes over the years. It has an iPhone app, for example, that lets people buy and mail cards from their phones. It also partnered with online card service Shutterfly to share designs that consumers can use to build specialized cards online.
Its chief rival, Cleveland, Ohio-based American Greetings, actually went from trimming costs and jobs amid the recession to announcing in August that it's adding 125 workers to an Osceola, Ark., plant. It's part of an expansion that will allow customers to design their own cards -- online, of course.
Judith Martin, author of the syndicated Miss Manners column, says she thinks the move away from mass-produced sentiment isn't all bad.
"The most formal situations still require something written," she said. "The least formal are easily taken care of with texting or email, which is terrific. The idea that it has to be all one or all the other and that one method is totally out of date and the other one takes over until the next thing comes along just impoverishes the ways that we can use these different things."
Amanda Holmboe, a 25-year-old power plant quality control worker from Portland, Ore., has mixed feelings about the rise of digital communications. She said her friends email, text or post something on Facebook when something big happens in her life.
"More people know about my life and what's going on. I hear from more people, so in some ways I'm connected to more people, but it's a less personal connection," she said.
But Holmboe isn't giving up on cards.
"I love sending cards," she said, adding that she mails some from the cities where she travels for work. "I think they're fun, and I like being able to write a personal note to somebody because I like getting mail, so I guess I just think everyone likes getting mail."Associated Press writer John Hanna in Topeka, Kan., contributed to this report.