REQUEST ad information from prestigious literary publications like Granta and New York Review of Books, as I did in the late 90's, and they'll send you their demographic profile emphasizing the upscale nature of their readership: high income level combined with genteel tastes. The point made is how UNrepresentative their readers are compared to the American population as a whole.
This is fine for narrow-interest literary journals. The problem is that the same attitude, the same concept of literary "taste," has carried over to those who write for book sections of daily newspapers.
IN THE DAYS when newspapers were gaining relentlessly in circulation they appealed to the common man. They sought a mass audience; i.e., everybody. This was certainly true even from a literary perspective. Lest we forget, O. Henry's short stories were published first in daily newspapers. This was a time when the short story and newspapers were both wildly popular. O. Henry wrote not for a refined crowd, but for everyone.
Today, one gets the impression that too many newspaper journalists would rather be respectable than read. It's much safer to cover make-no-waves literary editors who are completely predictable, than rabblerousers like those in the Underground Literary Alliance. Newspaper book reviewers write as if they're trying to impress a creative writing instructor. Their primary focus isn't the casual newspaper reader, but their own career and reputation. This is easily enough proved by the name of the organization of newspaper book reviewers: National Book Critics Circle. Critics! not reviewers-- and don't forget it.
And so, their writing operates under strictures and limits of their own making-- limits the ULA intends to smash with our upcoming redone new book review blog.
The status quo reviewers of the status quo NBCC have a bunker mentality. They have a marked hostility to change-- change now falling from all directions upon them.
What this means for writers like those in the ULA is opportunity. The NBCCers are like a failing auto company cranking out the same stodgy models they've produced for years. Their car lot with dusty pennants of fading colors across it arouses from the general public yawning indifference. Their salesmen do their best-- "Look! A new Richard Ford"-- but the potential customer, having experienced Ford's predictable blandness and low horsepower, passes on.
Down the street is a brand new dealership whose sales people wear loud suits with colorful handkerchiefs stuffed in their pockets. They present for perusal new, more exciting models of remarkable design, not stamped out by cookie-cutter MFA assembly lines. The new dealership of the ULA is eager to compete for public attention across-the-board. We know what appeals to the potential audience because we come from that audience. That's why the future is with us.