Reuters Interview

By Gina Keating

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A search for fun holiday cards yields a world of choices on the Web, where sites will personalize greetings, offering distinctive missives from elf aerobics to Santa wearing only a mistletoe sprig.

The sites range from the free-wheeling MOO.com and Zazzle.com, with thousands of user-generated images for Web savvy shoppers who demand to stand out, to the easy-to-use MyCardMaker.com, beloved by busy middle-aged clientele.

The U.K.-based site MOO.com has drawn more than 2,400 user-generated entries for a holiday card design contest it is sponsoring with a $2,000 prize.

The only rule governing entries is that designs should be “vaguely related to the holidays,” MOO.com founder and Chief Executive Richard Moross said.

“We want to be open to people’s different interpretations of the holidays,” Moross said. “It’s a very distinct alternative to the massive (greeting card) industry.”

Rather than shuffling through racks of spangle-encrusted greetings in card stores, MOO.com users can choose from thousands of contest entries or professional design images and write their own holiday messages.

The images, including personal photos, can be cropped and rotated and laid out in a variety of ways on card stock supplied by MOO.com. To complete their order, users choose the color scheme, font style and card size.

A package of 10 cards, assorted or all the same, printed on high-grade card stock costs $19.99, plus about $5 shipping, and takes five to 10 days for delivery, Moross said.

Although Moross started the site in 2004 for an Internet savvy customer he modeled on his 19-year-old sister, the breadth of the site’s users has surprised him.

“The world has kind of grown up and everyone is doing it now,” he said.

For consumers short on time or computer skills but long on ambition, MyCardMaker.com aims to take the frustration out of card-customizing by limiting their choices.

The process, which takes about three mouse clicks to complete, is especially appealing to the site’s main clientele: women, ages 35 to 60, said spokesman Tim Letscher.

“It’s rudimentary and simple. That’s the way our customers like it,” Letscher said.

Earlier this year, users complained when the company tried to remove suggested greetings from inside the cards, so they were reinstated, he said.

The site has a selection of about 180 cards designed by professional illustrators and artists, and 75 holiday-theme photo borders. Users can, and often do, use their own photos for cards, but the site does not have retouching tools — too complicated, said Letscher.

For membership fees from $3.99 for a day to $29.99 for two years, users can design and email or print on their home computers as many cards as they like. The membership fee also entitles users to discounts on professional printing jobs.

On the other end of the spectrum is Zazzle.com, which offers “an unlimited number” of images because its tools let users customize all four panels of a card, and the postage stamps as well, spokeswoman Amber Harrison said.

Zazzle is running a daily card competition featuring art and photo submissions by amateurs and professionals that are available for customizing.

The site’s design tool can alter practically any component of an image with hundreds of fonts, and text and color choices. Or, users can start from scratch with their own photos or illustrations.

Single greeting cards start at $2.95 with discounts given for larger orders.

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