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A new study released Monday by the University of North Carolina’s School of Media and Journalism details the stark decline of newspapers in the U.S. and particularly in rural areas, where citizens are less educated, poorer and older.

Expand chart
Data: UNC School of Media and Journalism; Note: Investment firms include New Media/GateHouse, Digital First Media, CNHI, Civitas, tronc/Tribune, BH Media, 10/13 Communications; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Why it matters: Because of the isolated nature of communities in which many papers have dissolved, "there is little to fill the void when the paper closes."

Between the lines: The report shows that the collapse of the newspaper industry, beginning around 2004, has been getting worse.

  • According to the study, newspaper sales and closures/mergers via the seven largest newspaper investment owners have increased over the past five years.
  • Major newspaper holding companies often aren't incentivized to invest for future growth opportunities, but rather to flip the papers to be profitable in the short-term, largely by cutting back on staff and resources.

By the numbers:

  • The largest 25 newspaper chains own a third of all newspapers, including two-thirds of the country’s 1,200 dailies.
  • There's been net loss since 2004 of almost 1,800 local newspapers. About 70% (1,300 papers) that closed or merged were in metro areas (suburbs).
  • Between 1,300 and 1,400 communities that had newspapers of their own in 2004 now have no dedicated news coverage.
  • Today, almost 200 counties (of the 3,143 total counties in the U.S.) have no newspaper.

Last year I caught up with Penny Abernathy, the report's author, who has been studying the economic decline of newspapers for years and asked her about the importance of newspapers in society. One quote that stuck out:

“A good newspaper shows you how you’re related to people you didn’t know you were related to. It gets you back to your sense of place."

Go deeper

Updated 12 mins ago - Health

The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Omicron's blitz around the world has underscored the need for a new arsenal of COVID vaccines and therapeutics, experts say — and that may require an effort akin to Operation Warp Speed 2.0.

Why it matters: The virus will continue to evolve, potentially in a way that further escapes vaccine protection, and the best way to prevent more global disruptions to everyday life is to have tools ready to combat whatever comes next.

Ina Fried, author of Login
39 mins ago - Technology
Column / Signal Boost

Microsoft's metaverse maneuvering

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Microsoft is pitching investors and regulators that its $68 billion Activision Blizzard deal is all about the metaverse, that nebulous buzzword taking the tech world by storm.

What they're saying: By my colleague Stephen Totilo's count, Nadella used the word "metaverse" at least five times in his conference call discussing the deal. Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick mentioned the metaverse four times, while Microsoft gaming chief Phil Spencer used the term twice.

Women in same-gender partnerships face a double pay gap

Expand chart
Data: The Hamilton Project; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

A married female couple will bring home lower wages, on average, than an opposite-gender married couple or a same-gender male couple.

Why it matters: Women in same-gender partnerships can experience (at least) two kinds of discrimination, based on their gender and on their sexual orientation.