Browse By

IDEA #51 – Email via Snail Mail, for free!

I had this idea a few months ago, but saw that someone had already created this service (see L-Mail). Now a new start-up called Postful is entering the business. Basically, for $0.99, they’ll take an email, print it, and mail it for you. So they could mail your Grandma an email, if she doesn’t use email.

Also, I don’t think this needs to just apply to people w/o email addresses — people love to get things in the physical mail. So I’d love to send a friend an email, as a physical letter. Or send an “ecard” that’s actually a physical greeting card.

I think this could possibly be done for free (ad-supported). You could likely negotiate a rate with the USPS for roughly $0.23 per mailing (?) based on volume (like corporations do with mass mailings).

Then the person sending the email as snail mail, could either pay a fee ($0.99?) to have just that sent — or they could have it sent for free, advertising-supported. Thus, in the envelope would be offers from Home Depot,, a coupon for $1 off the latest Campbell’s Soup, and an insert telling about a new movie coming out.

Just like any other mailer sent to someone by snail mail, the advertising companies could focus their advertisements on a locale (i.e. just sent my ad to people in Texas).

But better than any other snail mail spam, users will actually OPEN these — to read the email/letter from their friend or loved one. Will they look at the advert inserts? Who knows, but they’ll at least open the envelope.

Maybe the sender even selects what ads will be inserted from a quick list of 10 options.

  • Jeremy Kandah

    Kind of reminds me of the gmail april fools prank.

    Wouldn’t it be cool if someone took the same idea and applied it to blogs. I don’t know if anyone would want it, but wouldn’t it be slick to have a “newspaper” delivered to your door of yesterdays happenings on your favorite blogs.

    It could even be customized (similar to yahoo pipes). You remix your RSS feeds, and then they are able to send you a paper copy. I don’t know if there is any utility in this, but it would be kind of cool.

  • Justin Garten

    Hi. I’m one of the founders of Postful.


    The ad supported model is one we’ve looked at very closely (and remains an option for the future). In our case, we found that a majority of potential users were willing to pay to avoid ads. Business users in particular couldn’t have ads sent along. Others didn’t want to mix the personal vibe of letters with ads. That said, there was a significant group that preferred ads. I definitely think there’s room for both models.


    We actually have people doing this (blogs) in the beta. One clever user setup a special RSS feed for mailing entries to his grandmother (he uses a particular tag for entries to mail). When we open the public API, I expect to see more tools become available.

  • Chris

    Great idea Steve. I like this one because it is simple. Joe Public could almost set this up in his mom’s basement.

  • David Hall

    It would be great to be able to ship the emails overseas. I’m in the military and just returned from the combat zone. We have the ability to email home from Iraq but everyone is always more excited to receive physical mail. This would be a great service for the troops.

  • Steve Poland

    @David — seems to do that.

  • Charlie

    So September 22nd, 2005!!

    Love this blog, Steve… So many great ideas!

  • Greg Harris

    I used to do this from my Commodore 64 in 1986 from Compuserve on a 300 baud modem.

  • alvaro

    Is this option from ? “or they could have it sent for free, advertising-supported. Thus, in the envelope would be offers from Home Depot,”

    Thanks in advance

    May grace be with you

  • James

    New site to receive Snail Mail online.

  • Pingback: » 100+ Web Start-up Business Ideas - By Steve Poland - web startup ideas and brainstorms, straight up! (formerly Techquila Shots)()

  • eliminator

    hahhah the are51 isvery secury but i foudn some files about them maybe they are wahching my message right now but what ever the file says that they dont want to tell us any think about eliens because we wont belive it and it could start im sorry can say too much im 13 yeras old i have found evidence about the are51 they have hide the ufo disk and eliens in a under ground base i know every think i have gogle eartch and i have found files

  • James

    A place for persons to convey their needs or thoughts without the discussion boards, join our club or create your profile. Users provide the content and together with our help shape how and what this site features.

  • ekalaivan

    This is a good one.