I’m going to guess that if you’re reading this, you’re not a regular user of Egreetings. But if you are, be aware: The e-card service is shuttering on February 12.

American Greetings, the company that owns Egreetings, hasn’t bothered to explain the service’s demise (two days before Valentine’s Day) beyond some cursory ┬áposts on Twitter and Facebook. If you were one of Egreetings’ limited set of social media followers, you might not have seen this coming:

https://twitter.com/egreetings/status/418014361022894080

And normally we could leave this there. But: It’s a Saturday, and I’ve got the time, so I puttered around on the Google, and reminded myself that Egreetings was part of the head-scratching E-Card Bubble of the late ’90s, which was one of the highlights/lowlights of the Web 1.0 Bubble.

So, a quick flashback: At the end of 1999, Egreetings, which gave away free e-cards and hoped to make money on advertising, went public after losing $1.5 million on sales of $22 million over a nine-month period. One the day it IPO’d, Egreetings was valued at more than $350 million. If you poked around stock chat rooms you would find people who thought that sounded like a bargain.

Why? Because it was 1999! And more specifically, because a couple months earlier, Excite@Home (remember Excite@Home?) had bought BlueMountain Arts, another money-losing e-card company, for $780 million. And a big chunk of that was in actual cash.

So obviously, the logic went, somebody else would snap this baby up, too. After all, there was an e-cards gold rush going on.

And in fact, Egreetings was acquired. But not until the bubble had already popped, and it had laid off its CEO and a third of its staff.

In February 2001 American Greetings picked EGreetings for a deal that valued the company at $28 million. Meanwhile American Greetings had to take a $33 million charge for a writedown on the 20 percent of Egreetings it already owned.

And what about BlueMountain? American Greetings ended up buying that, too, a few months later. For $35 million.

American Greetings is still a viable business, though understandably a contracting one. In the 12 months that ended in February 2013, the company had eked out a profit of $50 million on $1.8 billion in sales.

Almost all of that money came from paper cards. But some advertisers, and nearly 4 million subscribers, are still paying for e-cards: American Greetings’ digital unit, which included Egreetings, generated $64 million in sales.

Last year American Greetings went private in a deal that valued it at $878 million. You can still spend money on BlueMountain cards. Prices start at $4 a month.




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