Since the upraising of the Internet in the 1990s many things have changed for the Gutenberg galaxis. The most obvious one, is that the price of internet related information is cheaper. While the normal book costs around 20 US$ to buy, a blog is provided without any costs, except the service fee for the internet service provider. As a result, the amount of information exploded. After the 1990s the amount of serious and entertainment information is higher than ever, and it grows further.
A second, not so obvious difference is, that with the Internet all the journal publishers losts it’s readership. Before the internet there was a strong connection between a journal and their readers. The relationship was determined by long term subscription and it was a seldom case, that a reader switched his newspaper. A reader from the new york times doesn’t read the wallstreet journal. As a result, each journal had a certain target group which was called their readership and the aim was to provide information for that group.
In the internet age the fluctuation is higher. Today it is very easy for the reader to switch a journal. The next journal is only a mouseclick away and one reader can subscribe to different blogs at once. The upraising of fulltext search engines since the 2000s has increased the situation further. Today the reader doesn’t have to know the journal title, it is enough if he knows his favorite subject and Google will filter all the available journals for him.
What is the effect for authors? Things have changed dramatically. A book or a website doesn’t have a classical audiance which can be identified and tracked. Instead the reader remains anonymous. A blogpost uploaded to the internet can be read by anybody and nobody at the same time. In most cases, Google decides who sees the article. But how is it possible to write a blogpost for an unknown audience? The answer to the problem is to raise the abstraction level. There are two language codes available: restricted and elaborated. If the situation is unclear, complex and determined by different actors only the elaborated language code is the right choice. That means, a blogpost has to be written in formal language for an academic audience.
Even if not all readers have this background this is the smallest possible common denominator. According to the definition the formal language can be understood by all groups of society. Adjusting the own writing style to such kind of communication interface is difficult but it’s necessary in the Internet age. The prediction is, that in 20 years all blogs are academic blogs, otherwise Google will filter it as spam or non-sense information. A good outlook in which direction future internet society will move is given by the Academia.edu project. The writing style within the website is purely academic. That means 100% of the content is written by academics for academics. Colloquial speech isn’t available. An academic paper has the highest amount of formal language it is written for situation in which the readership is unknown. The challenge is hard to write such kind of information. It would be much easier to write information for a non-expert audience. This kind of relaxed information distribution won’t be possible in the future, because Google asks for a high amount of abstraction.
Let us make an example. What is known about readers of a weblog. In case of doubt, nothing is known. A reader can be anybody or nobody. In such uncertain situation we have to admit, that the reader is an expert on a field. That means, the author has to write a text for a very demanding audience which is detecting every fault in the text. Not because the readership has changed so much, but because today’s readers have more tools available. They can compare the information written down and if one blog posts explains things different from another blogpost, they will recognize it.
Google has transformed non-experts on a field to professionals. The reader is sitting behind his search engine and he is scanning the Internet with a search engine. This allows him to judge fast and efficient and every piece of information which is wrong or written to deceive somebody is recognized. This makes reading of information very easy, but writing a hard task. The relationship between authors and readers have changed. Before the internet, the author was king while the reader was some kind uniformed beginner who needs advice. Today, the situation is the other way around. The reader has the full choice and all the tools, while the authors are under pressure.