The difference is that in the past someone who was a good technician - like me - could succeed without much creative talent or originality (ditto!). I was a good imitator, and still am a good imitator - that extended to being able to copy studio or darkroom techniques, remember words and terms, and learn very quickly from books, articles or experience.
Learning is, after all, just imitation - copying. What the NYT article demonstrates is that someone whose artistic vision is effectively naive, untrained, personal can do well in an era where the technical/aesthetic imitative (learning) process no longer matters much.
I will admit this is a problem facing me; my current work will probably end in two or three years, I will still need to work but I'm not entirely sure what as. I've seen the beancounters (with mixed respect, I have some good friends who are beancounters!) win huge salaries while creatives earn next to nothing. I don't understand it; when I was in my late 20s, my earnings were a match for the chief executive of ICI (probably because the 'earnings league' tables back then never revealed all the share options and bonuses...) and WELL above a head teacher, a local authority chief, or a typical manufacturing company director. On the level with a doctor or architect, and they were usually twice my age.
Now we earn about a quarter of the salary of a minor local authority head of dept, and significantly less than my daughter and her partner earn in government and software jobs. We couldn't even buy a basic house if we didn't have one - and yet on paper we were worth a million (sterling not dollar) a couple of years ago, because we bought our first house when I was 19, and resolutely moved to properties we could not afford to buy or run at every opportunity. Rather less now, but it's all relative.
I know photographers who are doing as well as I was, similar age - the Porsches etc, we had 'em, two or three or four car family, full time living in nanny, whatever. But they are all doing WEDDING photography not photojournalism. 30 years ago wedding photography got you nowhere, photojournalism could earn as much in a day as most people made in a week - advertising photography could earn what they made in a month, in one day. Today, if you want a quarter of a million a year, wedding and portrait photography seems to be the preferred route - and people will pay $10,000 to their wedding photographer.
Still, someone paid $750 for a shot of a hotel exit sign on a main road last week - I just wish I could find one of these every day...