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Expand chart
Data: UNC Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Gannett Co, the largest newspaper owner by circulation in the U.S., and its rival GateHouse Media, the largest newspaper owner by number of papers in the U.S., are currently in talks to merge, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: The combination of the two publishing powerhouses means that a single company would own 1 in every 6 newspapers in the United States.

Yes, but: For an industry facing near-collapse, consolidation is still considered a better alternative than closures.

  • There's been a net loss since 2004 of almost 1,800 local newspapers. About 70% (1,300 papers) that closed or merged were in metro areas (suburbs).

Details: GateHouse, which is owned by New Media Investment Group Inc, has a reputation for slashing costs and consolidating resources.

  • Industry analysts say they expect cost synergies between the two companies to come from sales and operational roles and point to examples of ways the newspaper giant has consolidated resource hubs around the country, like GateHouse's Center for News and Design in Texas.

Between the lines: Gannett may have finally found a friendly suitor after blocking a hostile takeover attempt from New York hedge fund Alden Global Capital in May. Another suspected takeover of Tribune, by McClatchy, also derailed last winter.

Be smart: Unlike some recent mergers in broadcast and telecom — also legacy industries upended by technology — experts don't believe that the deal would cause any regulatory concerns, because the companies don't really overlap in key markets.

  • "People get excited about consolidation among media properties, but I think these two companies still represent a small percentage of news publishing and I don't see in them any true antitrust concerns," says David Chavern, CEO of the News Media Alliance, a newspaper trade association that represents thousands of papers.

The big picture: Consolidation in the newspaper industry is rapidly increasing as consumers and advertisers flock to digital alternatives. Large, publicly-traded, newspaper holding groups are consolidating most of the power.

  • For example, a study from UNC's School of Media and Journalism last year found newspaper sales and closures/mergers via the 7 largest newspaper owners have increased over the past 5 years.

The bottom line: "I think this is part of a continuation of local news publishers trying to get to an economically sustainable business model," says Chavern.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

GOP Sen. Ben Sasse to introduce bill offering signing bonuses to new hires

Sen. Ben Sasse. Photo: Samuel Corum/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) plans to introduce legislation this week to grant signing bonuses to new hires, he announced Tuesday.

Why it matters: The bonuses would replace expanded unemployment benefits and are aimed at boosting employment. Sasse called the numbers in the latest jobs report "crummy."

Prosecutor to seek hate crime charges, death penalty in Atlanta shootings

In Hopkinton, Mass., the Rally & Run To Stop Asian Hate is held to show solidarity in the wake of deadly Atlanta shootings and to mourn the loss of eight lives including six Asian women. Photo: Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Prosecutors unveiled murder charges against the white man accused of shooting and killing eight people, six of whom were Asian women, at Atlanta-area spas,.AP reports.

Driving the news: A prosecutor filed notice that she plans to seek hate crime charges and the death penalty in the case.

3 hours ago - Health

Study: Over 99% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients were not vaccinated

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Cleveland Clinic on Tuesday released a study showing that 99.75% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 between Jan. 1 and April 13 were not fully vaccinated, according to data provided to Axios.

Why it matters: Real-world evidence continues to show coronavirus vaccines are effective at keeping people from dying and out of hospitals. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have been found to be 95% and 94% effective, respectively, at preventing symptomatic infections.

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