Lekiosk, the France-based digital newsstand that last year raised $7.1 million in a Series B Round to push its vision as a “Spotify for magazines”, is today announcing a deal with Asus in a bid to grow its Android business. The makers of the Nexus 7, the PadFone and FonePad, and other tablets will preload the lekiosk app, covering some 800 magazines, as part of its ASUS@vibe+ content platform on devices sold in the UK, France and Italy — the three markets where lekiosk is now live.
No word yet on a full U.S. launch of lekiosk, although as before users in the U.S. can download the app from Google Play or the App Store and read European titles. Lekiosk is also planning to release a Windows 8 app in the next couple of weeks.
The deal announced today signals two different strategic moves. For lekiosk, it is one more step in its bid to become a ubiquitous, native presence on tablets and smartphones, to match the shift in how consumers are reading today, and it extends its reach specifically to Android users. This is lekiosk’s biggest deal yet: it is already preloaded on Sony’s tablets, tablets made by Archos, and is in “ongoing discussions with other manufacturers,” Nathaniel Philippe, a co-founder of lekiosk, tells me. He says he is “not in a position” to say whether others include Android market leader Samsung.
The advantage for lekiosk is that it offers device makers a way to offer a native newsstand experience to users without having to strike all those content deals directly themselves. “That’s why Asus selected us,” he said.
Lekiosk has already seen a lot of success with its service as an OTT standalone app: it says that it has been downloaded by 1 out of every 4 iPad owners in France and has had 700,000 downloads overall since launching in January 2011.
The newsstand model is being pursued by a number of other app developers, not to mention platform and device makers like Apple, Google and Amazon. Lekiosk’s spin is that it charges a subscription-style model for its service — in the UK it’s £10 for 10 magazines each month. Philippe would not say how much revenue the company has generated from this to date, but he does say that Apple’s iOS remains the most profitable platform for the service — despite the fact that Apple’s NewsStand, along with Amazon, are lekiosk’s biggest competitors. About 80% of its business is now on iOS, with 10% on Android and 10% on the web, and overall lekiosk now has 25,000 paid subscribers. Worked out over a year, at that number, annual revenues are at a run-rate of £3 million.
And if wider industry trends are any indication, it looks like iOS may continue to be the mainstay for lekiosk for some time to come: ABI yesterday predicted that 75% of the 14 billion tablet apps that will be downloaded this year will be on iPad devices.
On the other side of the story, for Asus, developing its own content portal is part of the trend among Android device makers to help differentiate themselves from the rest of the competition and draw more people to their brand. This is all the more important for Asus as it pushes into more hybrid-style devices like the PadFone to chase down Samsung.
“The 800 titles distributed by lekiosk are a worthy addition to our ASUS@vibe+ content service, and add real entertainment value for our users,” Vira Chang, head of eBusiness Service Department of Asus, said in a statement.
In Asus’ case, it has been trying to do this with “vibe” for a while — making its content platform ubiquitous across all of its devices, including its Windows-based hardware, via a partnership with Bluestacks.
Asus is discontinuing its original ASUS@vibe service on Android devices by the end of April — it stopped taking new registrations at the end of January — replacing it with a more enhanced experience on vibe+. Other devices that will see vibe+ lekiosk preload include the Transformer Pad Infinity TF700, the Transformer Pad TF300 and the MeMO Pad.
Looking ahead, Philippe says lekiosk is planning to release its first Windows 8 app in the next couple of weeks. “We believe that Microsoft will give us more traction in the future,” he said of the still far-from-ubiquitous platform. “Our whole goal and mission is to be present everywhere.”