Postcrossing Blog

Stories about the Postcrossing community and the postal world

Posts tagged "statistics" View all

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Eager for more statistics? Here we go, for part 2 of the census analysis! There’s actually only a couple of things left we’d like to go over in this post, so let’s dive straight into it.

First up, let’s talk about blog content — what are postcrossers’ favorite topics to read about here?

A bar chart showing members favourite blog topics. Postal history and interesting facts: 52%, Statistics: 42%, Friendship stories: 32%, Writing prompts: 21%, Little Mail Carriers: 17.9%, Book reviews: 18.8%, Giveaways: 16.1%, Stationery reviews: 15.8%, Spotlight interviews: 13.7%

This was a multiple choice question, and of the people who replied, most like to read about postal history and interesting postal facts… which is great, because so do we! 😊 Statistics and friendship stories are also popular, with the rest of the choices being a little more evenly distributed. There’s definitely something for everyone! This blog is actually a part of the website we’re rather proud of, as there has been an average of one post per week here for the last 14 years, if you can believe it! Looking back at the long archive of posts is really gratifying.

Moving on to the big questions… what do people like or dislike the most about Postcrossing? Let’s look at the things that annoy us all first:

What do members dislike about Postcrossing? Expired/lost postcards: 12494, Always the same countries: 9938, Demanding profiles: 6912, Inactive accounts: 5306, No app / Website is not mobile-friendly: 2468

Keep in mind that this was a multiple answer question, so people could pick up to 3 replies or write a different one. This was an open question in the previous census, so the answers were a bit all over the place… 😅 We tried to condense the main replies we saw, so we could get a better idea of their distribution.

Clearly, expired or lost postcards are a big source of frustration with this hobby, as no one likes to send a postcard that ends up not being acknowledged. Over the years, the Postcrossing system has been improved to include several automated rules and triggers focused on reducing this issue, including setting accounts to inactive, sending reminders, and blocking or closing accounts. Because of these automations, the percentage of postcards that goes unregistered has been steadily decreasing over the years (*), and we’ll continue to do our best to further minimize it. We know that this percentage will never be zero, but we still have a few different ideas that we’re planning to test throughout the year that will hopefully further lower these numbers.

Other annoying things include the lack of geographical diversity, demanding profiles and the fact that the website isn’t very mobile-friendly yet… all things we’ve been addressing and tweaking in different ways, and which continue to be on the top of on our long to-do list. Beyond these big ones, some postcrossers also remarked on empty registration messages, postcards with short messages, empty profiles or those written in languages other than English, or receiving too many postcards at once, among other issues. We think these are fair grievances, and having a clear ranking of their “annoyingness level” helps us prioritize how we tackle them.

And, last but not least, what do people like best about Postcrossing?

What do members like best about Postcrossing? Contacting with people all over the world: 63%, The surprise and randomness: 57%, Learning about other countries and their cultures: 54%, Being able to make other people happy: 50%, I feel part of a friendly community: 27%, It's a creative outlet: 18%

We purposely didn’t include sending and receiving postcards as an option, as we assume everyone likes those parts (and there was a separate question about that). Beside those, contacting with people all over the world seems to be the #1 thing members like about Postcrossing, but its a tight margin separating that answer from others like the surprise and randomness, learning about other countries and cultures, or being able to make others happy. Less people highlight being part of a community or the creative aspect of the hobby, which we definitely understand, as those are not for everyone.

And that’s a wrap on this year’s census analysis! We haven’t yet finished going through all the feedback on the last question of the census, in which we asked you to give us ideas of things to improve or just share your thoughts about Postcrossing — the number of comments is a bit overwhelming, in a very nice way. 😊 A big thank you to all of you who took the time to fill out the census, for your kind words and for the many ideas of things to improve and think about!


(*) There are two notable hiccups in the expiration rates lowering trend over the years, which we monitor closely as we know these are important to Postcrossing. Mid-2017, Russian Post had an issue that caused lots of mail to be stuck somewhere for a few months, causing the postcards to expire before being delivered later in the year. Also, in the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, when flights started being cancelled and there were no alternative routes in place, a lot of mail got stuck for a long time. Both these incidents have been resolved (through improvements to the mail service, and with the help of the Postal Monitor), and the overall trend continues to slope downwards, towards a lower expiration rate.

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We’ve finally completed the analysis the 2021's census results, so here we are to report back and do some introspection! 🤓

This time around, we’ve greatly simplified some of the answers so that we could streamline the analysis, and also created a separate form for our members in China, who couldn’t access Google Forms last year. In total, 23,329 postcrossers replied the census, and here we have to make the usual caveat to point out that while this is a decent sized sample, we can’t quite extrapolate that this sample portrays all postcrossers. For instance, some people may be less likely to reply to questionnaires (maybe they struggle with English), which might skew the results. So, please take the results with a grain of salt!

The basic demographics haven’t changed much from 2020, so we’ll skip that overview this year but feel free to have a look at last year’s post for the rundown. One question we did tweak was the one about where people live, to give it more granularity beyond the rural/urban divide. Here are the replies:

Where do postcrossers live? Rural area (11.9%), Suburb near a large city (18%), Small city or town (34.6%), Large city (35.5%)

Last year’s results were 75% urban and 25% rural, and this year we see these numbers subdivide into smaller categories. It would perhaps be relevant to know how most people define large vs small cities or towns though, as this definition is likely to vary from country to country. Maybe this could be something to further improve next year.

Another new question for 2021's census was proficiency in the English language:

How fluent are postcrossers in English? Fluent/native (49.2%), English is ok (31.7%), Can understand basic sentences, and use a translator occasionally (17.3%), Don't understand English or  know just a few words (1.9%)

I guess there’s not much of a surprise here: most postcrossers are either fluent or relatively comfortable using English to communicate, but 1.9% mentions not being able to communicate at all in that language… This percentage is likely to be even higher, as we imagine long surveys are a challenge for someone that struggles with the language. One advantage that postcards have over letters is that they are smaller, and thus less daunting for non-native speakers. We know many members use Postcrossing to improve and gain confidence in their foreign language skills, and we hope the project can continue to be a good tool for this purpose.

I don’t think we showed this graph last year, so here it is: where did people hear about Postcrossing?

How did you hear about Postcrossing? Friend or relative (30%), Internet search (16.7%), Social media (16.1%), Offline media (13.3%), Don't remember (12%), Other (4.9%), Penpal (3%)

The biggest slice on that pie is still through friends or relatives, which is really cool — it’s great to know that you guys enjoy Postcrossing so much that you brag about it to your loved ones! 💙 Many of you simply stumble on the project while searching online or browsing social media, and a smaller slice learned about it on offline media (like radio or newspapers). Good to know!

Next, what is everyone’s favorite part of the core Postcrossing activity, sending or receiving postcards?

What do you like best in Postcrossing, sending or receiving? Both equally (74.4%), Sending (11.5%), Receiving (14.2%)

Turns out, both — which is brilliant! The percentage of people who reply “both” has even increased since the last time we did a similar poll back in 2017.

We also asked how easy the Postcrossing website is to use, and most people (63%) replied it was super easy, 29% chose easy, 6% picked the middle of the scale option and around 1.3% picked one of the last 2 options, indicating they have some or a lot of trouble using the website. Some of these issues were pointed out in the disability question of the census, giving us good tips of things to improve.

And last but not least, let’s look at friendships! Have you become friends with other postcrossers?

Have you become friends with other postcrossers? Not yet (62.8%), Yes but only online (26.4%), Yes and we have met (10.8%)

As expected in a project that is mostly about sending postcards to strangers across the world, the majority of people who replied to this question have not made friends through Postcrossing. Despite this, a significant amount of you mention having made friends — mostly online friends, but 10% have also met their new friends in person. It’s really cool to think that postcards and serendipity were the starting point of these connections!

There’s a lot more to unpack in the census, especially what people like/dislike about Postcrossing… so we’re saving that for a second post. Stay tuned for more insights soon!

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According to the census so far, 42% of postcrossers love to see posts about statistics on the blog… so here we are, reporting for statistician duty to give you an overview of last year in numbers! 👷 If you’re like us, you might want to open 2020's stats post on a new tab, to compare the values for the 2 years.

Ok, so first things first, the number of postcards received in 2021:

5,289,716 postcards received

Pretty impressive! This is a good bit (17%) above the total for the previous year, and even better than the number for 2 years ago, pre-pandemic. Woohoo!

26.94 days (average) and 18.12 (median) travel time

Average travel times are slightly faster than the previous year, but the median (a better calculation that doesn’t put as much emphasis on the outliers) is worse… and that is a little surprising to us as we expected both metrics to be lower by now. We hoped that postal services would have had enough time and pandemic experience at this point to sort things out between them, find alternative ways to ship mail, or just close routes temporarily until stuff has been fixed. 😩 Sigh.

25,774,489,281 kms (or 16,015,520,179 miles) of total distance traveled

This number is almost 4 billion more than last year, which is to be expected since we had quite a bit more postcards received as well.

19,929 kms (or 12383 miles) was the longest distance traveled by a postcard

The postcard doing this very very long trip was NZ-224513, which started its journey in Te Awamutu, Waikato, New Zealand and traveled all the way around the world to Cuevas de San Marcos, in Andalusia, Spain, arriving 32 days later! Pretty cool to think that a postcard connected these 2 places which are so far apart that they’re almost perfect antipodes. For comparison, the average distance a Postcrossing postcard traveled in 2021 was 4873 kms (or 3028 miles).

1,269,834 postcards were sent from Germany 🇩🇪

Once again, our enthusiastic German members have surpassed all the expectations and broke their previous record of 1,004,831 postcards sent in a year! This was also the year in which they crossed into Postcard IDs with 8 digits — the first country to do so in Postcrossing. 😊 Here are the top 20 countries and territories, by number of postcards sent:

Ranking Country/Territory Postcards sent
1🇩🇪 Germany1,269,834
2🇺🇸 U.S.A.824,901
3🇷🇺 Russia632,935
4🇳🇱 Netherlands287,368
5🇫🇮 Finland223,456
6🇨🇳 China181,296
7🇯🇵 Japan156,987
8🇬🇧 United Kingdom141,261
9🇹🇼 Taiwan140,879
10🇧🇾 Belarus123,260
11🇨🇿 Czechia109,282
12🇫🇷 France107,469
13🇨🇦 Canada104,474
14🇵🇱 Poland73,601
15🇦🇹 Austria62,951
16🇨🇭 Switzerland59,180
17🇱🇹 Lithuania58,990
18🇺🇦 Ukraine58,780
19🇧🇪 Belgium57,735
20🇦🇺 Australia46,574

The number of “Postcards sent” is a little counterintuitive, so I’ll explain a bit: this is the number of postcards sent from these countries which were registered in 2021. That means that there are some postcards in there that were sent in 2020 and registered in 2021, and there are also many postcards requested in 2021 that are not counted in this statistic (those are still traveling and will likely be registered over the next few weeks/months). Limiting this number to a certain timeframe and sticking to it makes it easier to compare with previous years though, so we’re going with it.

Although some countries have moved up and down the ranking, the countries in the top 20 are more or less the same as last year, with the only difference being Ukraine entering the list and Hong Kong leaving it.

What about top senders?

Sidolix sent the most postcards (registered in 2021)

Hannes (aka Sidolix) sent 2555 postcards and recovered his top pole position from 2019. 😊 Willi (2480), uttia4a (2476), hepman (2451) and Antje321 (2392) complete the top 5, all from Germany.

We’re not sure how these top members do it, but these numbers are super impressive… If you send a lot of postcards every year, maybe come share your secrets with us in the comments below!

Åland Islands sent the most postcards per capita

Looking at number of postcards per capita, the Åland Islands still reign supreme! Here’s a look at other countries and territories in the top 20:

Ranking Country/Territory Postcards per capita
1🇦🇽 Åland Islands98.9854
2🇫🇮 Finland38.0285
3🇱🇹 Lithuania19.7158
4🇬🇬 Guernsey19.1022
5🇳🇱 Netherlands15.7575
6🇩🇪 Germany14.3917
7🇱🇺 Luxembourg13.8598
8🇧🇾 Belarus11.8149
9🇨🇿 Czechia9.4894
10🇱🇮 Liechtenstein9.1005
11🇱🇻 Latvia6.9093
12🇸🇮 Slovenia6.7990
13🇦🇹 Austria6.6908
14🇨🇭 Switzerland6.5819
15🇪🇪 Estonia6.3738
16🇹🇼 Taiwan5.6596
17🇸🇰 Slovakia5.3622
18🇭🇰 Hong Kong5.1353
19🇲🇴 Macao5.0219
20🇲🇹 Malta4.8001

Note that the number represents postcards sent per 1,000 inhabitants, and only countries with more than 10 members are featured. Not many changes in the list, but Macao and Liechtenstein are newcomers to the top 20!

October 1, 2021 was the day in which more postcards were sent

No surprises there, right? Postcrossers sent more than 60,000 postcards on World Postcard Day this year, waaaaay above what we would consider a “normal” day in Postcrossing. The next best day of the year is the kick off of the December campaign on December 1st, with about 20,000 postcards sent. Apart from these 2 days, a lot of the days with most postcards getting sent seem to happen around March.

While we were looking at these numbers, we thought it would also be cool to look at the day with most postcards received…

December 30, 2021 was the day in which more postcards were received

A total of 21,225 postcards were registered in this day, though we confess we have no idea why this day in particular. 🤷‍♀️ Maybe there was some backlog of mail that got stuck somewhere because of the holiday season, and got delivered just as the year ended?

And that’s it for this year’s roundup of statistics! What do you think? Were you surprised by some of these numbers, or are there perhaps other stats that you’d be interested to hear about? Please do share them on the comments!

PS: We know it’s always frustrating when your country is not featured in a top ranking… so we published the full country rankings on this forum post.

PS2: Speaking of statistics, the second annual census is about to close, so make sure you submit your replies if you haven’t done so yet. You’ll find the link to it on the email we’ve sent some weeks ago.

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Here it is, another post in which we do our best to extract some juicy statistics from the 2020 census! But before we dive in, a quick note to remind everyone that these are results based on a survey of about 30,000 replies. Although we expect the data to be somewhat representative of the Postcrossing community, we can’t quite extrapolate that these portray an accurate sample of all postcrossers. For instance, children may be less likely to reply to questionnaires and Google Forms is blocked in some countries, to mention just a couple of factors that might skew the results. So, please take them with a grain of salt. Ok, let’s do this then!

First off, how happy are postcrossers with their country’s postal service?

A graph depicting how satisfied postcrossers are with their postal service

Reasonably happy, it turns out! The majority of respondents seem to have a positive impression of their postal service’s work. You might remember we’ve run this same poll back in 2017, and the results were somewhat similar. We’re curious to track this sentiment in the next few years, and check how it changes over time.

And where do you usually mail your postcards?

A graph depicting the location from which people usually send mail

Street mailboxes continue to reign supreme, with post office alternatives being popular as well. A good number of you (almost exclusively in the USA) mentioned also sending postcard from home, and though we don’t mind our ride to the post office for the chance to stretch our legs, we are a bit jealous of those of you who only have to walk a few steps to send your mail. How convenient is that?! This is another question we had previously polled in 2017, and street mailboxes seem to have gained a bit of terrain since then. Interesting!

Next, where do postcrossers get their postcards from? This was a question where you could choose several options, and here are the top results:

A graph depicting where postcrossers buy their postcards from

Isn’t that interesting? Online shops are used nearly as much as local postcard shops these days, which is perhaps no surprise with the pandemic. Tourist centers and museums also seem to be popular options, with post offices and supermarkets coming after that. This was also an open-ended question, so many of you typed in other options, like artists, airports, auctions, fairs, gas stations, postcard shows or even drugstores and pharmacies! It’s amazing to see this kind of variety — postcards are everywhere!

Turning to Postcrossing specifically, we asked how many postcards (with Postcard IDs) members send through Postcrossing every month on average, and these were the results:

A graph depicting how many postcards (with Postcard IDs) members send per month

So the majority of the postcrossers who replied to the survey sends less than 5 postcards per month, with a further 30% sending about double of that. Although the interval between these numbers isn’t always the same, the more you move up the numbers, the less people there are at each level, as one would expect.

And given these numbers, are postcrossers happy with how many postcards they can send at the moment?

A graph depicting how happy people are with how many postcards they can send in Postcrossing

Looks like most members are happy with their current limits, with about a quarter wishing they could send more, and a few noting that they’d like to send less. Some of you wrote that you would enjoy sending more postcards, but cannot do so as international mail is becoming quite expensive in your country, which we definitely understand. 😔

And finally, how many other postcards (for direct swaps, forum trades, friends and family, etc) do postcrossers send per month, on average?

A graph depicting how many other postcards do postcrossers send per month

It seems that most of you send just a few extra postcards every month. This matches our own experience as well, sending a few birthday postcards or swap postcards throughout the year, when the fancy strikes.

So… what do you think? Where do you sit in these statistics? Do the averages more or less match your experience, or are you more of an outlier in some of these graphs?

For us, it’s definitely been an interesting process to parse this data, and slowly discover more about the Postcrossing community. There are still plenty of spreadsheet rows to go through, and we look forward to sharing more census results with you in the coming months. Stay tuned!

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Whose brilliant idea was it to make a huge census before the end of the year, knowing very little of survey design and statistics? 🙋‍♀️ In theory, it sounded like a good idea… but then soooo many more of you replied than we expected, that it has definitely been a challenge to parse through all this data and make sense of the replies. Slowly though, we’re making our way through the numbers and getting a better idea of who postcrossers are, and how we can more effectively stir the project in the future.

So let’s start this analysis by the basics and try to paint a picture of who postcrossers are, based on the things that stand out from the census.

Gender distribution in Postcrossing Age distribution in Postcrossing

We knew this already, but Postcrossing continues to be a lot more popular among women overall, and the age range of the typical postcrosser is quite spread out. Somehow, I expected to see more teenagers reflected in the statistics… but then again, I can’t imagine a teen having the patience to reply to a survey, so that may explain it. 😅 Overall, we’re quite happy about this age distribution, which tells us this is a community that is made out of not just young people, but older generations as well.

Urban vs rural distribution in Postcrossing How comfortable are postcrossers with computers and the internet?

About 74% of people surveyed live in what they consider urban areas, which in hindsight is probably something we should have defined better, as the line between a city and something else is often not very clear — another thing to improve on the next census. And finally, most of us feel very comfortable using computers and the internet (which was option 5 in the scale).

socialmedia

Not unexpectedly given their popularity, most postcrossers seem to prefer Instagram over other types of social media, followed closely by Youtube and Facebook, with Twitter a distant fourth. Note for 2021's census: do a better job at including non-English social networks, which we completely missed! Still, quite a few of you mentioned VK (the Russian social network), Whatsapp and Telegram, WeChat and Weibo and even websites like Ravelry, Goodreads and Bookcrossing.

Stamp collection

One of the questions asked “Are you a collector?”, and 37% of you mentioned you weren’t collectors at all, but almost half of the respondents said they collected postcards and 20% mentioning being stamp collectors. Keep in mind that this was a multiple choice reply, so there’s likely some overlap of people who are collectors of more than one item.

Beyond postcards and stamps, the answers split into a myriad of replies, all with just a tiny percentage each. Here are the top 10 most popular collections: currency, books, magnets, stickers, bookmarks, pens/pencils, rocks/minerals, dolls, tea and art. What we found most interesting though were the choices that just a few people picked, like thimbles, snow globes, fruit stickers, rubber ducks, funko pops… the list stretches into infinity! That said, 11 of you mentioned collecting “elephants” and we hope these don’t refer to the actual animal, or you’ll quickly run out of space at home… 😅

That’s all for today! We’ll continue extracting statistics from the census and will report on them throughout the year. Stay tuned!