A minor note on something Weingarten, Minichino, and Mackro (whose video, response, and comment are all worth checking) seem to be forgetting: the late '90s generated a big uptick of people writing about music for money as well as not for it. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other retailers were making their web presences felt and using lots of freelancers to review catalog product. (This was always one of the main components of my freelance writing for eMusic, as well as new titles.) A lot of people who weren't writers but friends-of-editors-who-knew-lots-of-music got in on the music writing train. It's not a coincidence that Pazz & Jop leaped from 236 voters in 1996 to 441 in 1997 and then up to nearly 800 by 2005. If the professional numbers hadn't widened so much I don't think there'd be nearly as much panic when the non-pros basically took over.
I used to sell hologram bolo ties at the Mall of America