It was a great, historic run, but after about 560 years, it's just about over. Mercifully.

The print industry will soon be more dead than Rasputin. It's inevitable, and your very reading of this article reinforces the point. While it's not exactly news that electronic devices are rapidly supplanting physical books and newspapers, what about the ancillary results? Which affected sectors of the economy are adapting and which are being left up a tree (if you'll pardon the expression)?

TUTORIAL: Mergers and Acquisitions

The Evolution of News
For a while, at least until Albrecht Pfister came around, Gutenberg had a monopoly on the mass dissemination of information. Within the recent memory of most of us, that industry remained in the hands of only a few players. Whoever had the wherewithal to own the means of production – the presses and the newsprint – largely controlled what we read. (Also, check out A History Of U.S. Monopolies.)

For centuries, journalists provided humanity's most valuable service. If you're skeptical, all you have to do is ask one. Today, society seems to have come to the realization that anyone with an inquisitive mind, an internet connection and perhaps a camera, can do a journalist's job as well as any journalist can, only without that pesky overhead. Denied their position of authority, newspapers have had to scramble.

As for the print media companies that own the newspapers, they're either diversifying or dying. This is the industry that gave us something called the afternoon newspaper, developed because nothing keeps a sports fan up-to-date quite like reading baseball box scores that are 24 hours old.

Denver's late Rocky Mountain News is just one of a spate of recent examples. The paper died in 2009, six weeks shy of its sesquicentennial. Daily circulation had dwindled to barely a quarter million in a metropolitan area with a population 10 times that size. A month later, the newly unemployed staffers faced the inevitable too late and attempted to create an online-only paper. They solicited pledges, not unlike a public television station, and drew a grand total of 3,000 subscribers. Three months after that, that venture's final chapter was written, and not on newsprint.

Given the choice between carrying a static piece of paper that can be cumbersome to navigate, one that becomes a relic the second it's published, and a dynamic device that conveys information instantly, is it even a question as to which one will dominate the market?

The suits in charge of Scripps saw the writing on the wall and had already split the company into two publicly traded companies in 2008. EW Scripps primary business is television stations (with a handful of legacy newspapers). The other is Scripps Network Interactive parent company of broadcast and online entities such as the Food Network, Travel Channel and Great American Country, among others. One barely registers on the New York Stock Exchange. The other is approximately 15 times its size in terms of market cap, is extremely profitable and turns a healthy dividend. Care to guess which is which? (For more information, read Market Capitalization Defined.)

If you think times are bad for newspapers, be grateful you aren't one of their suppliers. In 2007, Abitibi and Bowater, formerly two undisputed giants of newsprint, merged into AbitibiBowater Inc., also know as Resolute Forest Products. When the companies joined forces, they had a combined market value of $2.4 billion. Since then, Resolute has lost around 40% of its market capitalization and shows no signs of rebounding.

Obsolescence = Opportunity
For a major player that began its life looking forward and has yet to stop, examine Amazon. Its Kindle may be less publicized than Apple's iPad, but it's no less revolutionary a device. Predicated on the idea that the convenience of being able to carry your entire library under your arm outweighs the smell of pulp (to say nothing of the discomfort of the occasional paper cut), the Kindle has redefined how the world reads. Last year, Amazon sold more electronic books than physical ones for the first time. It's safe to say that trend won't be reverting anytime soon.

The Bottom Line
The print industry is obsolete to the point where even calling it the "print" industry will soon seem quaint and obsolete itself. It's important to remember that the "print" aspect of it, the application of ink to paper, is secondary at best. Printing is just a vehicle for the conveyance of information, which for several centuries was the most efficient way of doing so, and now it isn't, any more than ponies are the most efficient way of getting mail from Missouri to San Francisco. (For related reading, see Measuring Company Efficiency.)

Related Articles
  1. Economics

    What is a Complement?

    A good or service that’s used in conjunction with another good or service is a complement.
  2. Investing News

    Super Savings for Your Super Bowl Party? Bet on It

    Prices for wings, avocados and TVs are all coming down, which will make your Super Bowl 50 festivities less costly.
  3. Retirement

    Ipsy Review: Is It Worth It?

    Discover the history of ipsy, how much packages cost, options available for membership, major competition and what the future looks like for the company.
  4. Stock Analysis

    The Biggest Risks of Investing in Johnson & Johnson Stock (JNJ)

    Learn the largest risks to investing in Johnson & Johnson through fundamental analysis and other potential risks. Also discover how JNJ compares to its peers.
  5. Budgeting

    Craft Coffee Review: Is It Worth It?

    Learn more about one of the first and most flexible specialty-grade coffee subscription services on the market, a perfect fit for any coffee lover.
  6. Budgeting

    Plated Review, Is It Worth It?

    Take a closer look at the ready-to-cook meal service, Plated, and learn how the company can help you take the hassle out of home cooking.
  7. Investing

    Barbie's Body Wasn't the Problem (opinion)

    Barbie's body type wasn't what killed sales, argues Angela Travillian. Other factors were at play.
  8. Stock Analysis

    Financing iPhones: The Next Apple Move (AAPL)

    Look at how Apple's plan to finance the purchase of new unlocked iPhones will impact choices of carriers as well as profits for both Apple and the carriers.
  9. Stock Analysis

    From Shampoo to Soup, Unilever Has it Covered (UL)

    Open your fridge, your pantry, your bathroom cabinet and you'll find the Unilever logo. Here's how the company got so enormous.
  10. Stock Analysis

    Fitbit Inc: How It's Fared Since Its 2015 IPO (FIT)

    Read about Fitbit and its position in the wearable fitness device market, and learn more about how it has performed since its June 2015 IPO.
  1. What is after-hours trading? Am I able to trade at this time?

    After-hours trading (AHT) refers to the buying and selling of securities on major exchanges outside of specified regular ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. How does a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) affect my salary?

    Some companies build salary adjustments into their compensation structures to offset the effects of inflation on their employees. ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Where can you buy NetSpend reload packs?

    You can only purchase NetSpend reload packs at Giant Eagle, Albertsons, Roundy's and Pathmark supermarkets. NetSpend cards ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. What does marginal utility tell us about consumer choice?

    In microeconomics, utility represents a way to relate the amount of goods consumed to the amount of happiness or satisfaction ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What are some common ways product differentiation is achieved?

    There are many ways to achieve product differentiation, some more common than others. Horizontal Differentiation Horizontal ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What role does the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) play in the finished product?

    Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) do not typically play much of direct role in determining the finished product. However, ... Read Full Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Flight To Quality

    The action of investors moving their capital away from riskier investments to the safest possible investment vehicles. This ...
  2. Discouraged Worker

    A person who is eligible for employment and is able to work, but is currently unemployed and has not attempted to find employment ...
  3. Ponzimonium

    After Bernard Madoff's $65 billion Ponzi scheme was revealed, many new (smaller-scale) Ponzi schemers became exposed. Ponzimonium ...
  4. Quarterly Earnings Report

    A quarterly filing made by public companies to report their performance. Included in earnings reports are items such as net ...
  5. Dark Pool Liquidity

    The trading volume created by institutional orders that are unavailable to the public. The bulk of dark pool liquidity is ...
Trading Center