It seemed inconsequential at first. Last night, Abitibi-Consolidated (NYSE:ABY) announced that it would be permanently closing down a pair of newsprint mills. The news came after negotiations apparently broke down between the Montreal-based company and local governments and worker unions.

I'm not here to point fingers. Why couldn't Abitibi-Consolidated run the mills profitably? That's not what intrigues me here. What I do find interesting is that this appears to be yet another case of an industry that really didn't need the extra capacity.

Yes, mill workers have every right to be upset at how the Internet has made newsprint less fashionable. The Web is a more timely communicator of content. It's also a more cost-efficient medium, with no inventory or physical distribution to fret over.

That's why even Playboy found itself scaling back on its circulation rate for the first time in 10 years. It's why the most ambitious New York Times (NYSE:NYT) product at the moment is taking the form of a premium online service.

Why is Knight Ridder (NYSE:KRI) on the block? Why is Gannett (NYSE:GCI) combining the online and offline newsrooms of its flagship USA Today publication after a 3% dip in newspaper ad revenues last month? Why is Tribune (NYSE:TRB) ramping up its share buyback efforts?

Things have gotten so bad that when McClatchy (NYSE:MNI) announced that it was on track to meet its targets -- after suffering through five straight days of meager stock downticks -- the shares still went on to close lower over the next three days.

The irony here is that these companies are about more than just delivering yesterday's news to your porch in the morning. They all have active online properties, as well. Beyond the self-named sites, many own popular virtual real estate. Washington Post (NYSE:WPO) now owns the popular online magazine Slate. New York Times acquired earlier this year. Gannett, Knight Ridder, and Tribune are all investors in

This certainly isn't comforting news to the Abitibi-Consolidated newsprint mill employees. Then again, it's also unlikely that any of them will be unaware of the bad news until tomorrow morning's paper delivers it.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz still enjoys reading the paper in the morning but finds it obsolete once breakfast has been consumed. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. T he Fool has a disclosure policy. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.