As a big fan of the handwritten word, the Business Optimizer team stops to consider the fortune and future of a vacation stalwart: the paper postcard. We ask: does anyone still send postcards anymore?
It’s a familiar sight at tourist hotspots and vacation beachfronts: the rotating stand of scenic images. The stand is bursting with pictures of the locale which display all the beauty of the seascapes, the cuisine, the tourist attractions and probably a few of the local inhabitants and wildlife as well.
But how many of us actually send postcards like this anymore?
In our digital age of instantly uploading photographs and videos, is there still a value in the traditional paper format? Today, we can let our friends and family know we are having a great time in a heartbeat. There’s no need to wait for the postman to deliver week-late news that arrives back after we do! We can send personalised videos, filmed and edited to exactly the effect and message we desire, and share them globally in seconds.
So where does this leave the humble postcard?
A postcard is more than a message. On this blog, we’ve talked a lot about the tactile joys of paper and of the way in which a handwritten note can be kept and treasured forever – and returned to again and again.
Sending a postcard shows that you care. It’s about letting the recipient know that you thought about them whilst you were away having fun. They know that you went to all the effort of composing a handwritten message, finding a post office, purchasing a stamp, and posting their card in a mailbox.
Nowadays, the average household receives only one personal letter every seven weeks. Yes, you read that right: one every seven weeks! So, when something arrives through the post, it has extra special value.
When the BBC filmed a Vox Pop into modern postcard sending habits, one
respondent revealed that although they no longer send postcards themselves they do enjoy receiving them and can keep them for a year or more.
Ben Apatoff told the Washington Post why he sends postcards when he travels and on other occasions. “I saw how it was a really easy way to make people feel good,” he says. “If I go on a trip and send postcards, people are so appreciative. It doesn’t take a lot of effort, but it’s been a great way to keep in touch with people.”
The Post revealed that postcards became more important to Apatoff when he took a break from social media networks. He still doesn’t use Instagram, but he has returned to Facebook, which he uses mostly for political and community organising. Even in this realm, he says, he follows up via snail mail. “I always thank them with a postcard, so people know what they’re doing is important. People have a really positive reaction to it. That’s really the reason I keep doing it.”
A postcard isn’t only for your friends and relatives to treasure! Sending a postcard is also a lovely way to chronicle your travels.
Travel writer Skye Sherman always sends herself a postcard when on a trip. She does this because it’s a quick way to preserve memories, it helps her to remember special details of a trip in a tangible way and, she says, because a postcard is the perfect collectible souvenir.
Skye explains, “when I [tell people] that I also write a postcard to myself and mail it home from wherever I am in the world as a way to record memories and experiences from my travels, their eyes light up — the most common response I get to that is, ‘Brilliant! Why have I never thought of that before?’.”
When you send a postcard, you aren’t just sending the postcard or a handwritten note. Your postcard includes other human details – not least the stamp!
Ana Campos, a community manager at the Postcrossing Project – an international community of people who sign up to send and receive postcards – explains that postcard fans “are more into the small human details like stamps, calligraphy, ink and wear and tear.”
The success of the Postcrossing project demonstrates the continuing global appetite for sending and receiving postcards.
Some 25 million postcards have now been exchanged by nearly 500,000 members worldwide. This includes some sent as part of the We Are One campaign, a call to action from primary school children on Tuvalu to raise awareness of the threat posed to their island nation by rising sea levels.