Twenty five years ago I was getting ready to graduate from college, anxious to enter the workforce and earn a paycheck. (I know, I don't look a day over 30, but that's partially because this magazine runs a dated photo of me.) I wanted to be a college professor but the idea of grad school and more student loans kept me from pursuing that goal. Instead, I did what countless other graduates in the late 1980s did: I mailed out hundreds of resumes to job openings I saw listed in the classified section of various newspapers.

My previous sentence illustrates just how much things have changed in the 25 years since Mailing Systems Technology launched. First of all, classified ads are practically non-existent. Sure, you see a slim section in the newspaper on certain days of the week, but anyone buying or selling services doesn't rely on newspaper classified ads any longer. Craigslist, eBay, and Amazon - and a host of other online services - have made classified ads practically obsolete. And I don't know any graduates from the past decade who mail their resumes to anyone. They email them to human resources departments or upload them to a website or they fill out an online application. The world has changed dramatically in the past 25 years, with the information age ushering in a whole new way of communicating and doing business. Digital, instantaneous communications have transformed entire industries, including newspapers, the larger publishing industry, the music industry (from CDs to iPods and streaming music), the telephone utilities, and, of course, the Postal Service.

In 1987, the Postal Service was in the heart of its boom years. Worksharing, which was initiated in the mid 1970s, got its legs in the 1980s as more and more mailers took advantage of the lower-priced bulk postage rates and did mail preparation work on their own to qualify for those rates. Total mail volume in 1987 was about 153 billion pieces of mail and had been experiencing steady year-over-year growth in the decade of between about three percent and 10%. But the real story was in the growth in workshared mail. First Class workshared mail enjoyed double-digit percentage increases in every year of the 1980s except two. Standard Mail also grew at a steady clip.

Many long-time postal observers call the Postal Service's introduction of worksharing to be its greatest success story. Worksharing, which allows mailers and service providers to use their own systems and logistics to prepare and enter mail, essentially opened the upstream portion of the postal system to competition. This helped to keep mail affordable and make it attractive as a communications medium, which in turn helped to spur the explosive growth in direct mail - another of the Postal Service's biggest successes. The combination of worksharing and personalized marketing, which relies on sophisticated databases and data-mining programs to target direct mail, provided a potent and winning combination for mail. In some ways, this successful model has been replicated in the digital world, as companies use data mining to send targeted advertising electronically rather than by mail. The billion-dollar question is whether consumers will respond in the same way to digital ads as they have to the more traditional forms of advertising.

As we look ahead to the next 25 years, the future may not seem quite so bright for the Postal Service. Its current financial challenges and the changing nature of communications make it hard to see the next big thing that is going to drive revenues for the Postal Service and keep it viable. But, I'm pretty sure that in the mid 1970s, when Readers Digest petitioned the Postal Service and its regulator for a discount for sorting mail, few, if any, predicted the huge snowball effect this effort would have. Worksharing transformed the mailing industry. The next big thing to revolutionize this industry for another 25 years could be out there. Let's give the Postal Service the tools it needs to discover it.