Yet LaTeX persists because people in academia find that it fits their needs better.
People in certain fields of academia. I've worked with people in a lot of academic research fields - statistics, Alzheimer's research, behavioral neuroscience, energy expenditure, circadian biology, food science, etc. I've been employed at three major research universities and a government research facility. I haven't ever worked with anyone who used LaTeX. 99% use Word; the single exception I can think of prefers Pages. My colleagues include people who spend half their time in SPSS or R, and I do a reasonable amount of scripting to automate data file processing, but nobody I know has bothered with LaTeX. Comp sci and engineering folks might use LaTeX. But even leaving out social sciences, "academia" encompasses a whole lot more than comp sci and engineering. If you want to collaborate with anyone outside of the limited circle who use LaTeX, you're going to be using Word, or dealing with those who do.