Some of the largest voting blocks in the country can’t be reached through the web. This issue is being highlighted by conditions in Iowa where internet usage is particularly low among likely voters.

Most campaigns have decided that their online efforts can’t help under those conditions. But, while local organizing, face-to-face meetings, and retail campaigning are all critical, there are interesting opportunities for campaigns with strong online communities.

Using a service like Postful, campaigns could make it easy to send personal letters. With very little effort (or expense), campaigns could link supporters to voters with similar backgrounds and interests.

It would allow voters to hear from people whose concerns and interests are more likely to mirror their own. It allows for communication outside of the ordinary media filters.

Letters could include copies of relevant news articles further explaining their position. Combining a personal endorsement and connection with the authority of a known news source could be powerful.

Campaigns not wanting to release voter information could either act as an intermediary for letters or even use something like Postful mailboxes. It would eliminate privacy issues while making it even easier for supporters to write.

The possibilities are extensive. Especially for campaigns with strong online support (currently led by Obama and Paul), such methods could provide a unique advantage. More, it could open the door to new forms of personal politics and campaigns.

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Printing Press

Print publishers are working to personalize the content they deliver to their subscribers. While they adjust from the top down, our users are creating personalized publications from the ground up. Mass customization is coming to the print industry from both directions, and it’s fun to see.

Wired ran a promotion last month asking readers to submit cover photos for their July issue. They’ll be producing 5,000 different covers from those photos. It’s an exciting experiment in reader interaction, but it falls short of what they describe as the “Holy Grail” of print media: personalized and targeted publication.

We saw another example of this with the issue of Reason where every subscriber received a personal edition with a satellite photo of their home on the cover. More intriguingly, Reason customized certain articles and ads based on the subscriber’s location.

I know from personal experience that this is an extremely difficult process. I spent a few too many nights sleeping on a print-shop floor working on the Reason cover. Despite the potential, it’s been hard to overcome the technical challenges. And efforts have been limited to the occasional test or promotion.

Postful’s users, meanwhile, are delivering extremely targeted publications at a very small scale. We already have users sending print copies of their blog articles to relatives who aren’t online. Some have automated this process with rss-to-email feeds or even compiled posts into mini-newsletters.

The potential for this is exciting. There aren’t too many steps from personal newsletter to small magazine. While the larger magazines work through the logistical intricacies of personalizing a product designed for mass runs of hundreds of thousands, the smaller ones can scale upward with a product meant from the start for individuals. Meanwhile, both can make use of the same web-based ad marketplace.

I don’t know whether the large magazines will adapt before the next generation of dynamic newsletters and magazines establishes itself. The one thing that’s certain is that the print world is changing. As I’ve said before, print isn’t dying, but the media apparatus built around it is. Print is just a delivery vehicle, one that is finally being incorporated into our digital life. We’re proud to have Postful play a part in that.

It will be fun to see how this develops as our users lead the way forward.

photo credit: Gastev

Don’t Repeat Yourself

April 4, 2007

Speed Limit

Postful is about sending snail mail from email. In particular, it is for people who want to work fast.

As we were designing our user interface, we kept asking ourselves this question:

What is the very easiest way someone could send snail mail from email?

Our answer was this: type the address in this subject line.

Then we did this a whole bunch at times, and our fingers started to get bored. All that typing of addresses. Personally, I forget people’s addresses. Zip codes? Forget about it.

What is an even easier way to do this?

If you are going to be sending to the same person more than once, you don’t want to type the address over and over again. What if a message to christopher_robin@postful.com just got snail mailed every time to 28 Hundred Acre Wood, The Forest? That way, you could just keep the email address in your address book.

And that is what a Postful mailbox is.

What is yet an even easier way to do this?

Postful must read our minds. Postful will know what we want to say and whom we want to say it to. Artificial intelligence, shmartificial intelligence. We’re hard at work here at the problem of telepathy. We’ll keep you posted on any developments.

I must admit that when I was forwarded a screenshot of Gmail Paper last night, my first thought was, “Holy crap, Google has gotten to mail ahead of us.” Suffice it to say after reading details, I recognized the joke and felt shame. Shame that I now share with the world.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be highlighting some of the uses of Postful. Today, we start with small/medium sized business.

If you work in or run a small or medium sized business, you’ve probably felt the frustration of dealing with the occasional need to send a letter. Keeping materials stocked is expensive (letterhead, stamps, envelopes) and taking the time to produce, stamp, and mail a letter feels like a waste. Nonetheless, there are times when you have to mail something. Postful is here to make sending a letter as easy as sending an e-mail. Effectively, we put a corporate mail room in your e-mail client.

We give you the option to:

  • Create an e-mail address associated with a physical address. Every e-mail sent to that address is printed and mailed to the associated physical address. This is great for frequent contacts.
  • Send a letter to quickletter at postful.com with the name and address of the recipient in the subject line. We parse the address and send the letter on. This is perfect for one-off letters.

With Postful, you can:

  • Produce and mail a letter from anywhere. On a business trip? Working remotely? Need to send a quick letter? It’s easier than you could do it at present in your own office (and really you should be using Postful in your own office as well!).
  • Easily keep records of sent letters as easily as you keep and track sent e-mails.
  • Quickly send hard copies of documents to any location, from any location.
  • Eliminate the expense and inconvenience of stocking letterhead. Each letter can be printed on your own letterhead.

Mail isn’t the primary communications tool for business anymore, but it remains an important one for key tasks. However, the very rarity of those situations has increased the expense of mailings. Before Postful, any business too small to have it’s own mailing department was left to absorb those increased unit costs and unnecessary inconveniences. We’re happy to provide a solution for the rest of us.