“Create something that has meaning in people's lives!”

Ralph Simon is regarded as one of the founders of the mobile entertainment industry. In this week’s expert interview, he talks about the fascination of Gangnam Style, latest trends in mobile entertainment and the timeless power of a great story.

WSA mobile: Ralph, is it true that you are the father of the ringtone?

Ralph Simon: That's what they say but it's not 100% true. The ringtones were invented and created in Korea and Japan. But we were the firsts to commercialize a service outside of Korea and Japan and we managed to get the licenses that allowed us to do that. And we were pretty much responsible for popularizing Western music in a mobile framework. So that led to some people saying: “Well he's the father of the ringtone!”

Actually, what I really do is try to think of how to be a visionary in Innovation and Repertoire. I travel the world and I am on a relentless search for young innovative people that are coming up with really great ways of improving people's lives. I do that because I just know that the mobile device is going to be the remote control for the way that people conduct their lives - whether it's health and wellness or whether it's commerce, or whether it's mobile payments. So I travel the world and some people like to think of me as the global mobile warrior.

Which places do these journeys take you to?

Today, you don't have to come from the United States or from Europe to be an innovator. I've seen some incredible innovation coming from the slums of India, or from countries in Africa, where people have to study with a candle at night. These young innovators can now be successful on a global basis and find a whole new career path that will make them money – if they are smart, original and creative.

So talking about mobile entertainment: Where is the revolution happening right now?

I think video is a very important factor right now. Someone at the World Congress on Information Technology said that video is the new voice in the mobile world. For instance, one of the great revolutionaries that has changed things is the young Korean singer Psy. His Gangnam Style has been an absolute phenomenon. Just think of how unusual it is: How can someone sing in Korean and be so successful with it globally? Isn't it amazing that it takes a Korean with great visual thinking, to do a video that looks great on smartphones or even lesser devices? Larry Page – one of the founders of Google – said he saw this video and realized that this is the future: It is instant distribution, has a global reach, and creates what is generally known as a Meme. This is a Meme that has got its own motivation. And it is actually going to be seen by more people than “Charlie, you bit my finger!”


So what is your recommendation for young developers who are trying to make their products fit to this mobile trend?

At the moment, the most dominant mobile configuration on a global level is caller ringback tones, but of course with a very fast pickup of smart phones all around the world, video is going play an increasingly important role.

However, one thing is certain: You can't just put out rubbish because a terrible thing happens. Do you know what that is? NOTHING! Nothing happens if you put out rubbish. So the big thing is looking at bite-sized pieces of film and video entertainment, which are just going to continue to grow and grow and grow.

Secondly, you have to create something that has meaning in people's lives. You know, in entertainment you always try to create something that's got meaning. James Cameron, who has the great distinction of having the number 1 and number 2 bestselling movies in the history of cinema, understands the value of narrative and storytelling. Similarly on mobile, particularly with video: The time has come for those new storytellers, those new narrators of the public experience and of the public emotions. If you do something creatively with personality, it's always going to be originality that comes through. Even though you get a lot of copy-cats as soon as you develop a good Meme.

Ralph Simon is regarded as one of the founders of the modern mobile entertainment industry. Over the last decade he has been a global trailblazer and innovator, growing the global mobile entertainment & content industry, and playing a central role in its development, significance and presence world-wide. He has been dubbed the 'father of the ring tone', as he and his team created and developed the first commercial ring tones in the USA, Canada, Europe, Africa and Australia in 1998. Prominent internationally, he has evangelized mobile operators, media & film companies, TV networks, brands, ad agency groups and platform providers on how to create and grow mobile revenues, impact and content on mobile devices and smart phones. He co-founded the Zomba group, became the Executive Vice President of Capitol Records and Blue Note Records in Hollywood and started EMI Music´s global New Media division in the mid 90s. Simon founded the influential Mobile Entertainment Forum, and acts as its chairman as a high level adviser.