I get start-ups pitching me on all kinds of services that seem to be solutions in search of a problem, but I used to like sending postcards a lot and I’ve sent fewer and fewer of them in the past few years. The ability to e-mail digital photos, post them to social media outlets, or put them on a blog has made the postcard kind of a relic.
That’s a shame though because the humble postcard still has a much bigger impact than something you glance at on a screen for a few seconds and then forget about. The permanence of a photo on a card makes it a grander gesture, in the same way that a hand-written thank you note is far more thoughtful than a dashed-off e-mail. (When I got married, my wife and I sent the thank-you cards for the gifts as postcards from Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, and Israel—that had an impact.)
It’s a hassle though in a foreign country and the postage costs have gotten outrageous in some spots. Expect to pay two dollars or more per card in many countries. Twice now I’ve bought postcards, filled them out, then balked at the postage amount and waited until I got home to mail them.
Which brings us to Postcardly. In the past I’ve tried a few services like HazelMail that were meant to allow you to put your own photo on a card and send it to your recipient. All of them have had their flaws though, from buggy software that would crash in the last step five minutes in or credits you had to pay for that you may or may not use or be able to retrieve months later.
Postcardly takes a different approach that solves both those problems. There’s no software on the user end to mess with. You just make up a “…@postcardly.com” e-mail address for every recipient that’s assigned to their address you fill in. After that, every time you send an e-mail to that person and attach a photo, it gets mailed automatically to that address. You can fill in addresses as you need them or do a bunch at once.
In my tests the postcards came out great. I often think my shots are as good or better than the sun-faded ones in the storefronts, plus I have a connection with the photo. The shots came out beautiful, like something you’d print in a photo shop, but on thicker card stock like a photo. On the back was the exact message I typed in the e-mail, printed out.
The postcard my sister is getting
Now okay, it was a little strange that one sent from Bulgaria had a stamp that said “Aloha” and the postmark was from Seattle, but it’s the price you pay for convenience. If you want the exotic postmark and stamp that nobody can read back home, you have to go old school. But with this Postcardly service, you’ll actually get it done and sent.
There’s no app for this service because there doesn’t need to be to actually use it: you just send an e-mail from your phone and attach the photo. Having said that, it would be nice if there was a way to import a contact while in your phone so you don’t have to enter the address on a tiny screen—especially if you don’t know it by heart. I just did it all from my laptop, so it didn’t matter, but hopefully this will get easier in time. For now, if you’ve got a good enough camera on your phone that you’re going to use that, load up the addresses before you leave.
I did kind of miss the ability to preview what I’m sending: to do that you need to send it to a preview address and they’ll e-mail you a PDF. You can also have this as an option for each one you send out to see what they’re seeing. My cards arrived in just over a week, which is certainly faster than you’ll get from say, Jamaica or Mexico.
As for the pricing, this service is $1 a postcard or less, done on a subscription service (that you can set up to expire automatically) or as a one-shot deal. It costs $5 a month for 5 postcards, $10 a month for 15 postcards, or a one-time charge of $20 for 20 prepaid postcards, for domestic U.S. postcards. International postcards count as two postcards against your monthly limit (or the number of postcards on your account, in the case of a pre-paid plan). Want to give it a test spin first? Right now they’re offering a free 3-postcard trial. So what have you got to lose? Go check it out.
Disclosure: Postcardly gave me a 10-card trial instead of 3 to check this service out. There was no other compensation and I’m just reviewing it here because I feel comfortable recommending it.