Remember when the computer replaced the typewriter business? It took awhile for computers to become prevalent, but the speed of change is increasing. New innovations are accelerating the path to obsolescence for some industries. Here are a few examples of current trends are causing industries to vanish.
Paper Maps Folding Into GPS
Global positioning systems (GPS) are popular gadgets for drivers, pilots, hikers, boaters and anyone else attempting to find their way. Personal navigation devices (PNDs) have become so common, rental car companies make them available for rent with their cars. Instead of attempting to follow tiny lines on an ever-folded page, you simply click on your desired destination and the PND feeds you verbal instructions guiding your every turn.
Leading manufacturer Garmin designs, builds and sells cutting edge GPS systems to a wide variety of commercial and consumer markets. Their new offerings include translating old paper maps into new PND maps. Those crusty old paper road maps are now collecting dust in glove compartments. The latest trend is sending travel directions to your cell phone, so there's no need for an extra device. (Predicting how the world will evolve can help you build a portfolio that can roll with the punches. Check out Megatrends For Maximum Profits.)
Internet Publications Rewriting Printed Media
The internet's 24-hour availability and instant update capability is forcing the print media industry to join the rest of the world on the web. Printed newspapers and magazines are feeling the pinch from dwindling subscriptions and advertising because their readers are switching to the internet for news and information.
Many traditional printed publications are evolving with the new trend, providing their content in digital formats and taking advantage of online audio and video. Remaining printed publications are dotted with online website and email references.
Ebook Readers Scrolling Paper Books
Contrary to doomsday myths about the demise of reading, books are still hot, they are just changing formats. New ebook reader devices are all the rage. Book connoisseurs appreciate the ability to store multiple books on a single device and upload new ones. You can loan eBooks to friends and read some eBooks for free.
Retail bookseller Barnes and Noble's new eBook reader, Nook, sold out before the holiday season started. Amazon.com reports selling 500,000 of its Kindle book readers during its first year on the market (the company's best selling product). Electronics companies like Sony and Samsung have now joined the fray. Even public libraries are making digital books available for "check-out" via their websites.
Some ebook devices have touch screens and wireless service, which remind readers they could just download ebooks to their phones (the next book trend). (Pioneering is never easy, but it has its exciting - and worthwhile - moments for investors. Don't miss Forging Frontier Markets.)
Greeting Cards Folding to E-Greetings
If you've ever sent electronic greeting cards or e-invitations, you know how easy it is. Since email has become a staple for many, sending paper greeting cards and invitations seems archaic. Why write or print address labels and pay for postage, when you can simply upload your email distribution list and click to send?
Some services offer confirmation notices when your greeting has been viewed. Traditional greeting card companies Hallmark and American Greetings and e-invitation websites such as Evite.com offer a plethora of choices with music and animation that say everything from "get well soon" to "save our wedding date." Other websites allow users to send free messages.
Just about any email site can offer the service, so actually receiving paper cards in the mail has become even more special. (Using the same strategy year after year may be comfortable, but it's not always profitable. Learn more in Investing "Road Less Traveled" May Lead To Riches.)
The Bottom Line
There's no turning back new innovations that make life easier and more interesting. Old school industries with the vision to adapt and capitalize on trends will survive, but the stagnant will surely die.