The idea that ‘content is king’ in the mobile space is a “myth”, and many of the industry’s big guns are wrong about the needs of younger subscribers.

That’s the view of the man behind Blyk, the startup that plans to offer free mobile services to users that opt-in to receive ads on their phones…

Antti Öhrling, who set up the company with former Nokia president Pekka Ala-Pietilä, told prospective advertisers in London recently:

“The first myth that people tend to believe is that content is king in the mobile domain. You have to think about the medium. Mobile is a communications channel, not a content channel. The next generation of the mobile experience will still be around communication, not content.”

Rather than targeting revenues from voice and data services, Blyk is focusing purely on ad deals and has signed up the likes of L’Oréal and Coca-Cola so far.

Set to launch in the UK at the beginning of August, it is gambling that 16-24 year old mobile users will tolerate SMS or MMS ads in return for free text messages and calls.

Its offering enables advertisers to send targeted messages to users, based on the information they provide about their likes and dislikes. Öhrling said:

“We feel that it is the relevance and the predictability in the way you communicate with your audience that makes all the difference.

“We are really pushing for a very high quality of advertising for our members. If the advertising is bad then the user experience will be bad. We want to achieve a positive experience.”

All messages sent by Blyk’s advertisers will go through its moderation panel, and the company says it will limit the amount each customer receives from brands to four a day max (as well as two from Blyk itself).

It says its platform will also cut spam as ’traditional’ mobile operators have built their databases around billing – not gathering personal information about users.

Many of Blyk’s target audience are also on pay-as-you-go packages - customers existing operators know little about.

The company’s UK sales boss Jonathan MacDonald said the company would gather this data when users sign up, and through ongoing monitoring and response mechanisms:

“They [the current mobile operators] know everything about your bank details. They’re not based around a CRM system or people’s profiles. And that’s no bad thing – unless you want to know about people.”

Blyk announced an MVNO deal with Orange in April and says its service will be nationwide from launch, but Öhrling declined to say how many subscribers he thought would sign up. But he added:

“[Content] is really something that everyone is looking to be the next holy grail in the industry, but if you look at the research for our audience – 16-24 year olds – mobile is a communications channel, not a content channel.

“People say mobile phones are the next generation of computers and there are all these companies setting up mobile domains. How could someone like Vodafone be wrong? Surely they wouldn’t do these types of deals unless there was something in them.

“But content doesn’t get consumed, while communication is massively used.”

See also E-consultancy’s Mobile Marketing Roundtable Briefing published last week (free to registered users).