Wednesday, September 17, 2008 1:44 PM
Postcards can be found at nearly every tourist destination around the world. And while they're always a popular and cheap way to keep in touch with friends, they also suffer from being incredibly generic - every shop seems to sell the same dozen postcards, no matter where in a city you go.
A new startup called Hazel Mail is looking to give postcards a more personal touch, by helping users design and send custom cards. The process is simple: after uploading an image to the site, users add a brief message and the recipient's address. Hazelmail then prints and ships the card from one of its globally distributed printers.
The site's closest competitor is HippoPost, a similar custom-postcard startup that launched last June. HippoPost allows users to send two free custom postcards per day, which are supported by user-selected advertising printed on the text portion of the post card.
In contrast, Hazel Mail forgoes ads and charges a flat rate of $1.50 for all postcards, regardless of their destination. And unlike Hippopost, which is only available in the United States and Canada, Hazel Mail claims worldwide distribution, with partner printers in North American, South America, Europe, and Asia.
Hazel Mail's biggest challenge will lie in convincing people to send custom postcards in the first place. Traditional postcards are appealing because they're convenient - they let you show your friends where you're traveling, without the hassle of having to print your own photos. To do the same with Hazelmail, you'd need to find a computer cafe (which can be very expensive) and upload your own pictures from a public computer.
That said, if Hazelmail launches a mobile application on the iPhone (or any other camera phone), it could really take off. The prospect of being able to snap a photo at the top of the Eiffel Tower, upload it, and send it as a postcard to all of my friends is very appealing. Of course, you could always email the image, but it's nice to have something tangible to stick on the refrigerator.