Lekiosk, a French iOS app that offers bundle deals on magazine subscriptions, makes its UK début today.
Michael Philippe, 25, one of the start-up’s quartet of young founders (the company's CEO, Ari Assuied, is the eldest at 33), said in an interview with WAN-IFRA this afternoon that publishers including the BBC, Condé Nast, IPC Media and Dennis had already signed on, giving British consumers an initial 100 titles to choose from, such as Vogue, Wired UK, and Marie Claire. “We’re fairly confident that by the end of the year we’ll have close to 200 titles on the platform,” he said, calling it “a very good start.”
The French app, originally called Lekiosque, has been downloaded half a million times since its launch in January 2011. The idea was born in 2007, while Philippe was still in university. Frustrated by his inability to get his hands on a copy of French magazine Le Point while doing an internship in New York, he called his brother and best friend in Paris, and they came up with the idea of reproducing a French newsstand anywhere in the world.
Users of the French app are confronted with a rotating, three-dimensional replica of one of the dark green news kiosques that are strewn through the boulevards of Paris. The company has anglicized both its name (Lekiosk) and its look (a phone booth-red London-style newsstand) for the benefit of its trans-channel clientele. Its animated monster mascot Marcel stars in a launch video (below) intended to awaken British interest.
“Marcel is our mascot. When you exist in a purely digital ecosystem, it is hard to personify the business,” said Philippe of the animated creature. “Our success is based on three pillars,” he went on: “the first is innovation in terms of the product… we have tried to reproduce reality with this 3D environment, where everything is very simple – we’ve never explained it to our users – and we have managed to create a sensation that’s different from those which already exist.”
The second and perhaps the strongest pillar of Lekiosk’s success is bundle pricing: the French version offers a monthly subscription rate of 9.99 euros for 10 magazines that helps to give it a competitive edge over bigger players like Zinio and Apple's Newsstand. The UK version will do the same for 10 pounds, although The Next Web’s Jamillah Knowles warns readers to choose carefully, as not every magazine on the shelf is available through the bundle.
“This really corresponds to what we see in music with Spotify and in cinema with Netflicks, which is to say that the user has the possibility of subscribing to a plan and then consuming what he wants when he wants – it has worked very well,” said Philippe.
The third pillar is what Philippe calls the “exhaustibility” of the offer. In France this means giving the user the ability to browse through the latest covers of more than 600 French magazines in high definition, to sample and stream articles, and to save an unlimited number of stories for future offline perusal.
Although France’s daily newspapers are currently pursuing their own mobile strategies and have not, for the moment, signed onto the platform, Philippe said that he hopes one day consumers will find all of the news they want to read at Lekiosk.
The company splits a standard 30 percent of its subscription revenue with Apple, passing 40 percent to publishers, and keeping 30 percent. This structure earned it 1.5 million euros in sales last year, and the company anticipates 6 million euros in sales this year. The offer is attractive to publishers, said Philippe, because beyond helping them to monetize content with revenue from subscriptions, "each sale achieved on the platform is counted as a paper sale for the publisher," which can boost diffusion figures and enhance interest from advertisers.
The French app has 25,000 subscribers, and can be found on roughly one quarter of French iPads. One of the primary reasons for expanding first to Great Britain is the opportunity presented by a greater level of iPad penetration, he said. Lekiosk plans to launch in Italy in the fall, and is predicting further European expansion for 2013.