Earlier this month, The New York Times reported that starting in March 2016, Playboy will bid adieu to nude, or at least to fully-nude. The magazine isn’t abandoning its characteristic presentation of women in provocative poses, but it is responding to the hyperabundance of pornography by redirecting their focus to the quality content they’ve always had.
The internet has allowed for the explosive growth of pornographic content, and there are plenty of sites that are organizing and offering pornography with little to no obstacle. Playboy could have responded to this disruptive change as their competitors have—by trying to trump in print what the internet offers via video. However, this strategy failed for one of Playboy’s primary competitors, Penthouse. Instead, Playboy is turning its focus to other the content for which it has also established authority—its reporting, articles, interviews, and other editorial text. Take a moment to peruse the comments of The New York Times article, and you’ll see comments from readers claiming that they read Playboy for their articles. Personally, I own a copy of The Playboy Book of Science Fiction, an anthology of science fiction shorts that have been featured in the magazine by authors such as Ray Bradbury, Ursula Le Guin, Stephen King, et al. It’s a very well-curated collection by Alice Turner, Playboy’s science fiction editor.
Playboy has to keep their magazine alive when this segment is generally struggling. While the magazine is profitable globally, it is losing $3 million a year in the United States. Let’s consider the possibility that removing fully nude photographs could also be a new marketing strategy by appealing to a whole new audience—women. Playboy currently makes most of its money from merchandise. If you do a quick search for merchandise with the famous Playboy bunny logo, how much of it appears to be marketed towards women? Belly button rings and jewelry, dazzling watches and cell phone cases, pajama sets, pink lawn chairs… I could go on. Clearly, they have the attention of women who subsequently want attention for displaying a logo traditionally associated with being “boys-only.” While you might be able to easily recall seeing a girl lying on her Playboy bunny beach towel with a matching bikini set, you’ll not likely recall seeing said girl with the latest issue in her hands. It’s still taboo for a lady to read a nudie mag even if the articles are genuinely interesting. As Playboy re-brands as a non-pornographic publication, will women become more comfortable picking up a copy or possibly even proudly displaying their copy in-hand?
By Heather Williams