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LetterPop: Family newsletter 2.0

LetterPop is a new service that makes creating attractive personal newsletters easy.

LetterPop is a new service that makes it easy to create attractive personal newsletters. It's an interesting option for creating personal pages that are not a river of text like a blog, and yet are better at telling a story than an online photo album. There are currently 14 LetterPop templates, and most are well suited for telling family stories, showing family photos, and sending recipes.The templates are a bit less suitable, however, if you want a newsletter for your small business.

The service has a simple mailing list manager you use to send your newsletters out to friends and family. Unfortunately, recipients don't actually get the newsletter, only a link to the LetterPop site where the newsletter is stored. It'd be much better if the actual newsletter was sent through by e-mail. Recipients can unsubscribe from your mailings if they like, though. That's a nice touch.

I like what this product does, and I admire its very clean and simple interface. The service doesn't layer on a bunch of extraneous options and features that would make it hard to use. However, it's a young product and perhaps it needs a bit more refinement before I'd recommend it to my mother-in-law. For example, when you place a photo into a layout, the system puts an attractive border around it that cuts into the image. In my tests, the border cut off the heads of people in a group shot.

And while I'm at it, here's another gripe: LetterPop is yet another service you have to upload photos to. For services such as this to be truly easy to get into, we need an integrated online storage system--such as the ones Sharpcast and OmniDrive are working on--they let you manage all your images in one place. Or these services also could work with photo-sharing sites such as Flickr or Webshots (CNET's photo-sharing service). I don't mind uploading images once, but after that I find it a real drag to use other photo sites.

The service is free during the beta period but imposes limits on the number of newsletters and photos you can work with; there may be paid options later with more storage and other features.

See also: Tabblo [our blog post] makes photo posters and links directly to Picasa.