While reading through the exhaustive 8K+ word biopic on AJC’s publisher Julia Wallace in Atlanta Magazine, I was struck by the use of the word “reader” throughout the lengthy piece. As in, “Readers are abandoning newspapers in droves. Where the bottom is, nobody knows.”
Let’s look at the definition of that word, READER:
1. One that reads.2. One who publicly recites literary works.3.a. A person employed by a publisher to read and evaluate manuscripts.b. One who corrects printers’ proofs; a proofreader.4. A teaching assistant who reads and grades examination papers.5. Chiefly British A university teacher, especially one ranking next below a professor.6.a. A textbook of reading exercises.b. An anthology, especially a literary anthology.7. A layperson or minor cleric who recites lessons or prayers in church services.
As someone who almost lives and breathes in the online milieu, I rarely encounter the word “reader” much outside of a brick-n-mortar bookstore. Even that cool new book downloader is devoid of the word “reader” as it was branded a “Kindle.” Rather, in an online environment, the presence formerly known as “reader” has morphed to become a socially-driven network known as “the audience.”
So I ran the whole 8K beefy enchilada written by Steve Fennessey through a “Word Find” document function, searching for the word “audience” in his article about Julia, but found not one single incident anywhere, from him or from Ms. Wallace’s lips. That then prompted me to seek a formal definition of the word AUDIENCE:
1.a. The spectators or listeners assembled at a performance, for example, or attracted by a radio or television program.b. The readership for printed matter, as for a book.2. A body of adherents; a following: The tenor expanded his audience by recording popular songs as well as opera.3. A formal hearing, as with a religious or state dignitary.4. An opportunity to be heard or to express one’s views.5. The act of hearing or attending.
And wow… #4 really stood out, as that’s what creating and consuming media in the online milieu is all about. So note the, ahem, old-school style and passivity inherent in the definition of “reader.” Then compare it to the meaning of the interactive implication of an “audience.”
Also note that no baby was thrown out with the bathwater when considering the acquisition of an “audience,” as item 1-b just above also incorporates that, aging demo I’m afraid, “reader.”
So you tell me which word will be driving the creation and the consumption of news media products from here on out.