French subscription-based platform Le Kiosk is launching in the U.K. with a staff of five and a plan to beat out Apple and others.
Le Kiosk, which launched in France in 2006 and gives access to its 450 publishers for a low £7.99 ($9.97) a month, claims well over 1 million monthly active users to its 1,600 titles. It contributes between 5% and 20% of traffic to its French publishers.
Le Kiosk faces challengers. Apple News+, which has had a rocky start, will expand to the U.K. in the fall. Last month saw the launch of Mogul News, which combines a subset of publisher content from the likes of Bloomberg and The Economist.
“We’re not just a digital newsstand; we create a service by surfacing content readers value most,” said CEO Ari Assuied, pointing out that of its 80 global staff, around 40% work the product development and features like searching across different titles and regular newsletters sharing the top content.
Le Kiosk’s growth has been spurred by bundle partnerships with four of the five French telecommunications companies and media company Canal+ — a similar route to how Spotify gained more reach and a model it plans to replicate in the U.K. The company wouldn’t share the split of those who pay for the service directly.
Le Kiosk has hired 10 data scientists in the last 18 months to package up the raw data into more regular and digestible insights. As part of quarterly meetings, it already shares knowledge like how many customers accessed content and for how long, popular articles and what impact a front cover has on sales.
“Those who are on the platform have been a little late to digital transition,” said François Godard, European media and telecoms analyst at Enders Analysis, adding that two leading French news publishers, Le Monde and Le Figaro, are not on Le Kiosk. “They are building a business on the back of wholesale contacts with telecoms providers, and it’s too early to tell if [they] will use bundles as a marketing ploy in the long term.”
The entrance of Apple News+ into the U.K. market in the fall will naturally lure some publishers to distribute on that platform too (Le Kiosk doesn’t have exclusivity).
“The only reason [to be on an aggregator] would be if someone like Apple could bring huge new audiences to their subscription business,” said Nic Newman, editor of the Reuters Institute Digital News Report. “But even then most have looked at the numbers and decided it is not worth it.”
Instead, premium publishers like The Financial Times and The Guardian have experimented with giving subsets of their content via aggregators like Curio and the recently launched Mogul News. But, counters Newman, this isn’t the proposition consumers would be prepared to pay for; they want full access.
Le Kiosk is confident it has enough favorable terms to attract and retain publishers. According to Assuied, 99% of the publishers have stayed with the Le Kiosk because of its well-balanced terms, which differ depending on the publisher, although he couldn’t share details.
“Having Apple News+ validates our position in the market,” he said. “We expect some publishers to go to Apple, we know the relationship [with Apple] is not always easy, but to give all your digital distribution to one player could be risky.”