“Earth Stood Still” — a metaphor for media?

Klaatu gives instructions to the globeI just returned from the remake of the classic SciFi flick, The Day The Earth Stood Still. I thought Keanu Reeves was excellent in Michael Renny’s role as Klaatu. He has that alien look about him anyway. That aside, the movie pretty much sucked. It’s tough to remake such a classic and do it justice. The special effects were nice, and Gort was cool, but its role was reduced. The name “GORT” is an acronym in this movie instead of an alien name, and there’s no drama about the robot running amok. The destroyer in this film is hordes of locust-like, microscopic critters who multiply and devour everything in vast, swooping clouds. Nice effects, but give me the damned robot! And worst of all, no “Gort, Klaatu Barata Nicktu.”

The film does provide a fitting metaphor for media companies, however: you’re killing yourselves, so clean up your act or risk annihilation.

Les Moonves said this week that the network affiliate roll of local television stations will last, perhaps, another ten years. So let’s think about that for a minute. By 2020, there will be no printed newspaper and no local network affiliate television stations. One or two stations might survive by serving niche content to small audiences, or new networks might emerge. Mostly, though, we’ll get everything we want or need via the Web, including portable videos and “books” via Kindles, or some other device for reading. We’ll all be connected, and that world will be very different than we have today.

None of it will reduce the demand for news and information, but we’ll draw from an array of local, regional, national and international sources — all low-overhead, razor-sharp companies with a gift for writing and creating “content.” The companies formerly known as local media companies will have fully evolved into businesses that are paid to help enable commerce through a variety of means. I think it’s possible, perhaps even likely, that these companies will spring up from the streets, instead of the traditional seats of media power.

Various prophetic Klaatus came to the media world many years ago and offered glimpses into tomorrow. In the years ahead, we’ll find out if anybody besides the scientists geeks were listening.

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