As some of the most popular publicly traded companies see their stocks soar in 2017, it's a good time to look beyond hot industries like technology, streaming video, and electric cars. Consider this age-old industry: newspapers.

Sure, newspaper circulation has fallen significantly from its peak in the 1990s as the internet disrupted the way people consume media, but newspaper companies are reinventing themselves to take advantage of increasing digital reach -- and the transitional period for these news-based companies is presenting some investment opportunities.

But where do investors start when looking at newspaper stocks? Here are two that stand out as potential winners: The New York Times (NYSE:NYT) and Gannett (NYSE:GCI).

Newspaper on a table next to a cup of coffee, a tablet, a keyboard, and a notebook

Image source: Getty Images.

An enduring brand

Known for its excellence in journalism, The New York Times is the brand to trust in newspapers. Focusing on distribution of high-quality news and information, New York Times Co. arguably has more staying power than any other newspaper company.

Beyond its clout in journalism, New York Times Co. has developed another formidable reputation with investors recently: innovation -- an important thing to be known for in an industry undergoing a major shift. The company's digital strategy is resonating with its audience, particularly amid the news boom associated with the recent presidential election. The company added an incredible 308,000 net digital subscriptions during its first quarter, as digital-only subscriptions for its news products increased about 40%. This caused digital revenue to soar 19% and overall revenue to increase 5%, even as print advertising continued to be pressured.

While the news boom surrounding the election may prove to be a short-lived catalyst, New York Times Co.'s ability to grow its digital business so meaningfully shouldn't be overlooked.

Unprecedented scale

As it transitions increasingly toward a digital model, Gannett calls itself a "next-generation media company." The diversified newspaper company gives investors a way to invest in news, as it transitions from print to digital consumption while benefiting from massive scale. Through its unmatched global reach, Gannett reaches over 110 million people monthly.

Like New York Times Co., Gannett's business is benefiting from increasing digital revenue. In Gannett's most recent quarter, for instance, digital revenue accounted for nearly a third of total revenue. Digital advertising revenue during the period was up 8.3% year over year. And Gannett's mobile digital advertising revenue is growing exceptionally fast, up 39.2% year over year in Q1. Digital-only subscriptions are increasing at an even faster rate, up about 73% year over year in Q1.

A man checks his smartphone

Image source: Getty Images.

But the unique opportunity with Gannett is found in the company's massive scale. With unrivaled circulation and reach compared to other newspaper companies, management says Gannett's scale and resources enable the company to take advantage of industry consolidation opportunities, while simultaneously investing in digital platforms and technologies as the newspaper landscape transforms. These actions will solidify a "market leading position in the 'next generation' of the news and information media industry," management argues.

Both New York Times Co. and Gannett are ways for investors to buy strong newspaper companies in an industry with an uncertain future. New York Times Co.'s durability is primarily found in its brand power, and Gannett's is derived from its large scale and reach. In addition, both companies are well positioned to benefit from continued strength in digital advertising and digital subscription growth.

Daniel Sparks has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends The New York Times. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.