One of the more curious developments in English cricket over the past year has been the construction of a new £2m media centre at Derby. Due for completion by the end of this season, it is expected to come in handy during the 2019 Women's World Cup, but it does seem rather optimistic for one of England's less fashionable counties. Derbyshire is the county, after all, where a visiting member of the ECB hierarchy recently wondered aloud why they bothered.

Good luck to Derbyshire for displaying optimism against all the trends. They may need it. Cricket journalists have been bemoaning the collapse of county coverage for the past 30 years, but every summer does seem to bring a new low. This season Stuart Rayner was withdrawn from daily coverage of Durham despite his efforts attracting an ECB award of Regional Newspaper of the Year. Down in the south-west, Steve Cotton's daily coverage of Somerset and Gloucestershire has been severely curtailed, as if on a whim. Expect them to have to provide more flim-flam about where footballers go on their holidays.

The one thing that can either kill or cure English professional cricket over the next decade, of course, is the next TV rights deal - and specifically the future direction of T20, not just how it is structured but how it is seen.

But whatever form T20 takes in the years to come, the ECB would be wise not to rely on traditional forms of written media, which are beset by newspaper advertising revenues going through the floor and the growing threat of the ad blocker on their websites - the ultimate display of destructive selfishness from readers blessed with an unhealthy sense of entitlement and very little sense of economic imperatives.

In the land where the Big Ball bounces, the traditional newspaper sector - with one or two notable exceptions such as the Cricket Paper, thriving after four years - looks on county cricket with indifference. First the excuse was "no space". When the web came into being, that shifted to "no budget". When free copy became available, the excuse became "no subs". It would be a savage irony if the newspapers that have long predicted the collapse of county cricket are the first to go.

The world for a cricket writer in England, beyond the international circuit, is an unforgiving one, and the resilience and talent of those who find a way to survive is deeply impressive. The few who remain, and remain entirely independently, continue to provide vital surveillance of the professional game, striving to keep it honest, challenging its decisions - or lack of them.

Not everybody has cottoned on to the fact that much of the county coverage you now see or hear is financially supported by the ECB - not just in the case of copy written by a network of respected regional reporters assembled with the help of the Cricket Writers Club, but also in the BBC's local radio commentaries, which bring so much benefit to the county game.

The 18 first-class countries aggregate more than half a million followers on Twitter, even more on Facebook, and the ECB's @countychamp Twitter feed offers regular video clips, which would have been unimaginable a few years ago

The ECB, to its credit, has been non-interventionist, and without its pragmatic support, coverage of the professional circuit would have shrunk still further. But the journalistic dangers of having reporters centrally funded by the game they are reporting on should be clear - even if basic agency sports copy, which this essentially is, has always involved an uneasy appreciation of mutual benefits between club and reporter. Interestingly, it has stirred allegations from some fans that journalists are too close to the game they are meant to monitor, leading some of the more issue-driven fans to regard themselves as the true guardians of the game.

Despite this disturbing picture, county cricket has more chance to make headway than ever before. Social media will ultimately determine whether England's professional game, in its present form, can glue together enough new converts to survive. The experience of Twitter, Facebook - and, indeed, ESPNcricinfo's own County Championship blog - is that these fans do exist. The internet cultivates niche tastes like never before, be it French films or origami. What is uncertain is whether there can ever be enough of those fans.

Such relatively new forms of communication, though, are spreading the word about England's professional circuit more enthusiastically than newspapers ever did. The information, by and large, is less reliable, the prejudices run deeper, the rage is never far away, but there are times when the passionate debate between fans about Surrey's seam-bowling ranks or Gloucestershire's overseas signings suggests that a new dawn is not impossible.

To follow Somerset's recent one-wicket win against Surrey on the web, on a tense third evening at Taunton, was to recognise that interest in county cricket can still flare in the hearts of many. It is possible to be more optimistic than for many years.

Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web in 1989, is right to call it the greatest enabler of democracy ever invented. But even he is not blind to the dangers. He was also right in a recent speech to denounce much of the anger and negativity that has resulted, particularly on Twitter where anger, prejudice and negativity so often drown out constructive thought.

Few cricketers have done so much good for the game in recent years as Brendon McCullum, but forgive my scoffing when his otherwise admirable MCC Spirit of Cricket Lecture at Lord's this week briefly descended into a clichéd whinge about media criticism during his career. The notion that a cricketer can sidestep journalists and talk directly to a polite, appreciative audience might just about be possible at Lord's, but those who imagined similar levels of respect on Twitter have had a suitable life lesson as the flattery from some fans has invariably come alongside toxicity from others.

As county cricket can testify, however, nothing is worse than being ignored, and the ECB and the counties have been largely enlightened in taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the internet. The official word has never been more effectively promoted, both on websites and social media feeds even if most stories seem to be about how a double glazing company has won five-year naming rights on the club roller.

The 18 first-class countries aggregate more than half a million followers on Twitter, even more on Facebook, and the ECB's @countychamp Twitter feed - although it misguidedly uses the painfully obvious hashtag #propercricket and so far has not attracted the following it deserves - offers regular video clips, which would have been unimaginable a few years ago.

Rudimentary live website streaming on county websites is also in its infancy, although as Nottinghamshire - one of the prime movers - recently discovered when pressed to withdraw the service because the TV rights holder was covering the match, such developments have not come without tension.

Expectations are growing apace. Video clips of T20 on a single static camera might satisfy a Championship audience, but to many T20 adherents they already seem outdated, lacking crowd noise and the thwack of bat on ball, and where the only signs of athleticism in the field are umpires diving in self-preservation.

And what if there is no video clip at all? Chesney Hughes apparently took a great catch for Derbyshire against Leicestershire in the Blast last Friday. At one time a report penned at leisure from the duck-egg-blue press hut would have been adequate; photographic evidence an unexpected bonus. Now the absence of a video clip means the sight is restricted to those who were there. To the new breed of cricket follower, that smacks of "local" not global and, in an increasingly connected world, it is an impression of failure. Ever since the League of Gentlemen comedy first hit UK TV screens in 1999, the belief in "local games for local people" is best limited to the grotesques of Royston Vasey rather than a county club trying to assert its future.

In the meantime, though, at least a community has rediscovered its voice. If Twitter acts largely as an instinctive, rapid-response unit, the shifts of a day's Championship cricket can be perfectly captured in the more deliberative nature of a blog.

Bursts of pleasure or anger come alongside reasoned debate and, at times, as the pace slow or the rain falls, the sort of irrelevancies that get you through the day. It is here in this easy-going companionship, where rivalry is always fraternal, that the true nature of county cricket lies. It is here that, on a clear day and with the wind in the right direction, it is possible to imagine that the game is not yet up.

David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps