National news outlets are favored over local news outlets in news aggregator results
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Description: Local news plays an essential role in ensuring the healthy functioning of democracy. However, local news outlets have struggled to stay open in the more competitive market of digital media. News aggregators' use of algorithms to curate results may be contributing to this decline, since many people rely on these platforms for information and algorithms have the potential to reinforce unequal distributions of attention. To test this theory, we collected 12.29 million responses to Google News searches within all US counties for a set of keywords. We compared the number of local outlets reported in the results against the number of national outlets. We find that, unless consumers are searching specifically for topics of local interest, national outlets dominate search results. Features correlated with local supply and demand, such as the number of local outlets and demographics associated with local news consumption, are not related to the likelihood of finding a local news outlet. Our findings imply that platforms may be diverting desperately needed advertising dollars away from local news, and contributing to the nationalization of politics.