The MINDS project (6.33)
Blum, Joachim (Mitarb.)
In December 2003 the EU MINDS project (Mobile Information and News Data Services for 3G and beyond) was given the official go-ahead by the European Union in Luxembourg. The project officially began on January 1 2004, and was completed on June 30, 2005. Throughout this 18 month period, the project focused on the future development of mobile services for information and entertainment, to simplify the complex world of mobile telephony for newspaper publishers and other media houses. The aim was to extend the range of mobile services available within Europe. During the course of the project, this ambitious objective was achieved. The initiative for the project was conceived in 2002 by a man with extensive experience in the world of mobile publishing. This man was Meinolf Ellers, Managing Director of dpa-infocom, the multimedia subsidiary of dpa (the German News Agency). Ellers was familiar with the complexity of developing mobile services for large portals of mobile phone companies, and he therefore recognised that newspapers, as the news agencies’ largest group of customers, would struggle to overcome all the hurdles singlehandedly in the short term. Ellers had previously worked with German newspaper editors in the mid-90s when they needed a reliable provider of online services, and the dpa quickly came up with a suitable proposal. As the initiator of the MINDS project, Ellers organised the consortium and the laborious application process, and as project coordinator, he assumed overall responsibility. The consortium’s approach evidently immediately impressed the EU officials responsible for the e-content support programme. Besides the dpa, other news agencies including APA (Austria), ANP (Holland), MTI (Hungary) and SDA (Switzerland) all joined forces in the quest to shed further light on the world of mobile telephony. Other partners included Arvato Systems (a subsidiary of Bertelsmann), software company CoreMedia (Hamburg), the Fraunhofer FOKUS Institute for open communication systems (Berlin) and Ifra. The project brief was clearly formulated: to develop technical standards, simplify complex business and contractual models, and develop concrete products for innovative mobile services. The result of 18 months of project work was more than presentable. In front of a large audience in Berlin, the consortium presented the project to the public and introduced the twelve ‘heroes’ a dozen mobile services with new technical and content qualities that were demonstrated in the current UMTS environment. For several months beforehand, the consortium had been engaged in research in a number of workshops and small working groups to create the basis for the development of new services. Since EU projects are subject to restrictive and continual inspection, and the consortium had imposed an ambitious work programme, the project timeframe was run to a very tight schedule in terms of the interim results that had to be delivered in the form of extensive reports. In parallel to the actual project work, the team was also trying to involve other news agencies and inform them about the MINDS project. During this process, more than ten agencies from countries including the USA, England and Spain took part in workshops. This expansion of the actual project group helped achieve the goal of setting up an international consortium on completion of the project. The aims of this consortium are twofold: to become a negotiating partner to the international mobile phone companies, and to act as an agent in further communicating the functional mobile services within national markets. During the course of the MINDS project, a German MINDS platform was set up under the direction of dpainfocom, and soon 16 newspaper publishing houses respectively with a total circulation of around four million were using the service. These newspapers began offering their first mobile phone services even before the EU project had drawn to a close. Further concrete follow-up projects are imminent in Switzerland and Austria. In addition to the actual development work involved, the MINDS project has led to important findings on the success factors of the mobile phone as a medium. “The key to the breakthrough of mobile media lies neither in the hands of the mobile network operators, nor in those of the handset manufacturers”, says Meinolf Ellers. “Market success will be decided in the editorial office and by sales & advertising teams”.