The new must-have business tool

The new must-have business tool

Summary: about 400 years old. And marketers at Silicon Valley startups are working themselves into a tizzy over it.

TOPICS: Collaboration

There's a hot new trend in the technology industry: business cards.

Now hold on, hold on, I know what you're going to say -- these have been around since the dawn of the age of the computer. That's true. In fact, they've been around since 17th century Europe, but I digress. But the Wall Street Journal wants you to know that there's a totally new kind of business card in style, one that unifies all your digital channels on a single piece of paper.


Every year, there's a new trend piece about digital companies embracing analog habits, and business card stories usually take the cake.

A taste:

"You can't replace the simplicity of a piece of paper for sharing that info," says Albert Hwang, a 28-year-old digital artist in New York. The contact information on his paper cards is displayed as if it were computer text coding.

Fantastic! There's nothing more simple than computer code printed on paper.

All sarcasm aside, I continue to wonder what the value of a business card is today. We continue to accept and exchange them even as we acknowledge their uselessness, which demonstrates that we still feel that they serve some purpose. (And yet, I have piles and piles of them, stacked high like miniature skyscrapers, all around my office. How many of them have I referenced over the years? I can probably count those on one hand. Because chances are high that I'll just conduct a web search for what I'm looking for.)

The Journal's article is really about showcasing the latest trends in the design of the tech industry's business cards, from unusual materials to interactive, tech-embedded designs to cards that don't resemble cards at all. I've received many an interesting business card over the years -- as a member of the press, it's part of my job to collect these -- and some were certainly memorable. But that's just it: the cards were memorable, not the companies.

Nonetheless, I find it fascinating that no technologist has truly been able to devise and see adoption of a business card replacement -- yet there are few folks who wouldn't want that information automatically populating their communication channel of choice. (The only thing worse than collecting stacks of business cards is knowing you need the information on just one of them -- if only you could find it.) Sure, scanning software and Bump-like applications have been created to digitize and share this information, but adoption is hardly universal. (I have yet to have someone ask me to "bump" with them at a tech show. Judging by how that looks written out on this page, it's probably for the best.) 

Until then, the industry's most cutting-edge, 21st century companies will use technology first developed in the 2nd century to exchange contact information about themselves. It's the next hot thing.

Topic: Collaboration

Andrew Nusca

About Andrew Nusca

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. During his tenure, he was the editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation.

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  • They should have those QR code on them

    A business card with QR code (cell phone square scanning codes) would be entered into a cell phone in a second, all classified correctly in your contact (inc phone,fax,e-mail, website), LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc. including keywords for easy search when you need to find it!

    They could even include a visual representation of the card...
  • Business cards are excellent networking tools.

    When cultivating relationships, business or personal, a business card provides an instant means to present all your contact info. It is much more professional than fumbling for a pen to write your info on a napkin. "Here's my card, give me a call and we'll do lunch/discuss your issue/solve your problem/go for a drink/etc." This happens a lot in casual situations or chance encounters outside the work place.

    Additionally, in keeping with the technological theme, the most interesting business card I ever received from someone was actually a small CD ROM that was fashioned in the size of a business card with the top and bottom cut off kind of like this:(_) Problem was, you had to put it into a CD ROM drive to view the info. I thought it could be useful for a small presentation. but not really practical for just contact info.
  • Digitizing isn't magic

    I thought I would save space by scanning in my pile of cards. Now I have a bunch of addresses I never refer to instead of a bunch of cards I never refer to. GIGO, I suppose. Spot on about using Google instead to look up " long tail" addresses and phones.
  • This is an archiving & data management problem

    I too have dreamed of digitizing all these contacts. The problem is that some are more important than others and contacts systems don't seem to be geared for that. I have a bunch of old contacts that may come in handy some day, but right now I don't want to wade through them every time I am quickly scanning to find a key contact I need to call. I need to near-line store them. Same goes for books on my digital reader. I want all the titles listed, but only the articles, magazines and books that i intent to read during the next month on the device or phone. After the documents aren't touched for a month or so, quietly migrate them off so I can have room for all my reference works, new material, and other must haves. The rest of my data can stay on my personal/business cloud that is parked at home with a couple of offsite mirrors synced for backup. Any vendors doing this? Sounds like a business opportunity.
    James R Shaw