The fact of the matter is, there is more content to read and interpret now than ever before in the course of human history.
Due to the ubiquity and persistence of Google in particular, and the internet in general, more people have more to read that ever before.
The problem is not that audiences have suddenly become alliterate, illiterate, or even semi-literate. The problem is not that there is an abundance of writing: good, bad, ugly and indifferent. The problems isn’t even in the declining power of the critic to influence and push a set of ideas.
The problem is that the act of criticism has always inherently been based upon an assumption of scarcity: both in content and in opinion.
Gatekeepers of all kinds exist to inform audiences about that which is “good” and about that which is “bad.”
But in a world where everyone can ignore the critic (or choose to revoke the critic’s power through denying them permission to influence a choice), the act of criticism has to shift from one of determining and enforcing a regime of quality to the act of educating, advocating and taking a position.
And defending it.
Of course, the critic should read, watch, listen or otherwise take in the content that they are seeking to critique. But if they don’t, then the audience owes them little in the way of attention and credibility.
Otherwise, the critic is no different than a member of the audience—albeit one with more reach, but not more impact.