May 21, 2020

Good afternoon: Today's PM — edited by Justin Green — is 474 words, a 2-minute read.

👀 Axios app users get a first peek tonight at our buzzy story on the 2020 election.

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1 big thing: No media publisher is immune

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, Axios' Sara Fischer reports.

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 multiple fronts on diversified publishers.

  • 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.

Bonus: Pic du jour

Photo: Frank Franklin II/AP

People cheer for medical workers at 7 p.m. last night in New York.

2. Catch up quick

  1. Economy: The stock market's speculative frenzy.
  2. U.S.: Senate confirms John Ratcliffe as intelligence chief — Lori Loughlin agrees to plead guilty in college admissions scandal.
  3. World: China plans sweeping national security law for Hong Kong — At least 80 dead after Cyclone Amphan lashed India and Bangladesh.
  4. Tech: Facebook could have 50% of staff on remote work by 2030 — Ex-Juul CEO Kevin Burns in talks to join digital pharmacy Alto.
  5. Education: 20% of students are uncertain of returning to college — Rep. Jahana Hayes says CDC guidance for reopening schools is "unrealistic."

3. 1 helpful thing

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Netflix is preparing to cancel subscriptions of people who stopped watching, the company said in a press release today.

  • "So we’re asking everyone who has not watched anything on Netflix for a year since they joined to confirm they want to keep their membership."
  • "And we’ll do the same for anyone who has stopped watching for more than two years."

The company estimates this will amount to a few hundred thousand people.