Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

COVID-19 has accelerated the shrinkage of journalism.

Why it matters: If it could happen to The Atlantic, where 68 staffers were laid off today, it could happen to any media company.

The big picture: 2.4 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, reports Axios' Courtenay Brown.

  • The pre-COVID record number of filings was set in 1982 at 695,000.
  • New York state's Labor Department told reporters this week it has paid out 4.5 years' worth of unemployment benefits in just over two months.

Between the lines: The coronavirus hit diversified publishers on multiple fronts.

  • Advertising: Publishers who enjoyed record COVID-19 web traffic weren't able to monetize it, as ad rates collapsed.
  • Events: In-person events, where The Atlantic focused considerable attention and where publishers can command a premium, are currently out of the picture. Virtual events are on the rise, but they don't command the same price point.
  • E-commerce: Amazon and big mass retailers have cut affiliate fees, cutting commerce revenue from many publishers.
  • Subscriptions: Many publishers have pivoted toward subscriber models, but with a few exceptions, those gains aren't even close to enough to compensate for the lost ad revenue.

What's next: Layoffs like this in crisis usually happen in waves, so a fall coronavirus resurgence could bring another round of job losses.

  • In the future — as more companies integrate remote work into their culture — other jobs will begin to get eliminated too, like in-person sales teams or teams that help produce print products that will not come back.

The bottom line: The Atlantic's troubles, combined with the struggles at other billionaire-backed publications like the Los Angeles Times, serve as an important reminder that the industry has few sustainable paths forward without viable business models.

Go deeper

Oct 13, 2020 - Economy & Business

Bloomberg's New Economy Forum looks to take on Davos

Bloomberg

Bloomberg's New Economy Forum, going virtual this year for the first time, is on track to challenge the likes of the World Economic Forum, The Aspen Ideas Festival and others.

Why it matters: The forum will be the first major global convening of business and political leaders in the wake of the U.S. election. The World Economic Forum has been pushed until next summer.

Updated 26 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Politics: Obama: Trump is "jealous of COVID's media coverage."
  2. Health: Mask mandates help control the rise in coronavirus hospitalizations. Hospitals face a crush.
  3. Business: Coronavirus testing is a windfall. Winter threat spurs new surge of startup activity.
  4. Media: Pandemic causes TV providers to lose the most subscribers ever.
  5. World: Putin mandates face masks.

The GOP's monstrous math problem

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Republicans, win or lose next week, face a big — and growing — math problem.

The state of play: They're relying almost exclusively on a shrinking demographic (white men), living in shrinking areas (small, rural towns), creating a reliance on people with shrinking incomes (white workers without college degrees) to survive.