What will it take to fix Playboy

Here’s a story from today’s Wall Street Journal about the company outsourcing some of its business operations:

The magazine has become one of those institutions that’s fashionable to bash, and IMO rightfully so. When you’re putting Marge Simpson on the cover, you’re need of a major overhaul and infusion of fresh ideas (on a related note, though, I get a kick out of the fact that company’s CEO is named Flanders).
Anyway what would you do to fix it?

step 1 burn every copy of photoshop

I lost interest years ago when they started over editing the pictures. Every mole, freckle etc. is painted over. They’re not even real photographs anymore. It’s manufactured graphics art.

There was a time playmates were the girls next door. That included real skin blemishes and all.

Take it a step farther and quit with the girls who have a higher plastic content than Barbie.


It’s dead, Jim. It’s not fixable. It’s an anachronism. You might as well try to save Vinyl records or the buggy whip industry. It just can’t compete with the internet. Even the hardcore porn industry is suffering from have to compete with free content on the internet. The articles are not good enough for most people to shell out for subscription to a softcore glossy anymore.

The Playboy philosophy was progressive 40 years ago, but it has stood still while mainstream culture has moved on. That (as well as free internet pron) has killed Playboy.

The Playboy Cyber Club is pretty good. I was an early member when it started in 1998. I enjoyed the moderated chats with the playmates. I left after a couple years because it’s expensive. One of the female mods eventually appeared in the mag (not a playmate).

So you lost interest in the 1950s?

In any case, Playboy was selling an ideal. And it worked. Now, however, people are less interested in idealism. Maybe more unretouched graphics wouldn’t hurt, but, in addition to the nudes, Playboy was just a very good magazine. Great articles, in-depth interviews, top-notch fiction, good cartoons. The cliche “I read it for the articles” was not just pretending you weren’t there for the women. There was some very good stuff published there.

To revive it, they have to concentrated on the writing and articles.

The magazine is already dead, it’s just that Hef insists on its being published as long as he’s alive. The only question is whether he can force the company to continue losing money as he declines.

Nothing can save the magazine. All magazines are dying and Playboy no longer has a purpose that anyone can define. Some magazines will survive as vanity projects but the era of magazines is almost over.

The complete and utter destruction of the internet.

The Internet would have to NOT be for porn?


The only way I can imagine to save Playboy would be to stop publishing pictures of naked women.

No, seriously!

They’ve lost that market. The only angle I can imagine for them to succeed going forward is to go PG-13 with their pictures and start publishing something more like a “classy” “lad mag.” Basically competing with GQ, but with a little more of a hedonistic take on life. Turn their mag into something that you could find in a waiting room or read in public. The editorial content in Playboy is already pretty good. Capitalize on that.

It’s a last-minute Hail Mary, but it MIGHT work. I’m pretty darn positive that continuing to try to survive by selling heavily airbrushed photos of boobs to my uncle isn’t going to work for long.

I think you just invented Esquire. Which is ironic, considering that Hef left Esquire to start Playboy.

You mean like FHM, Loaded, or Ralph.

Which is funny because both Esquire and GQ occasionally publish pictures of naked models/actresses.

I actually joked about this to someone from Playboy’s editorial staff a few years back. And in a way I have seen it happening (despite the failure of other lad mags). The only way I see them surviving is to embrace their kitsch value and nostalgia points wholeheartedly, from cover design to implant-free centerfolds. Get a Don Draper or Peggy Olson to spearhead a major campaign that makes a subscription to Playboy for every budding hipster. Or, now that I think of it, pay megabucks to do a Mad Men in-show promo – they could be the new company’s first new account!

Playboy never stopped its policy of smart and timely articles, interviews, and instructions on how to live The Good Life. What sets it apart from the mags like FHM and Stuff is that it has longer, more in-depth articles, and those mags are Short Attention Span Theater. Which, unfortunately, might be the Wave of the Future, depending upon what younger guys want to read.
I don’t know about GQ, but Esquire never has its ladies as naked as Playboy.
Playboy without the nudes wouldn’t survive, though – it’d lose them their older audience, which is, I maintain, still lured in by the skin. Without nudes, Playboy would be like the Marge-censored magazines in that Simpsons episode – and nobody wants that.

Stop posting “nude” pictorials of celebrities that end up only showing part of their butt and nothing else. It’s pathetic. The problem is the internet is full of nude pictures of random girls. Maybe if they could focus on nude pictorial of famous people, they could win at that.

Esquire prints pictures of woman who are undressed but strategically covered, but I don’t think they’ve done an actual nude in many years. I’m pretty sure GQ is in the same position. Undraped but no naughty bits.

Doing true nudes is oddly much more rare than it used to be. Fashion magazines like Vogue used to do arty topless shots but stopped several years ago as the new puritanism spread across the country. Only a very few fashion magazines will still do so, and most of those are European. To be sure, GQ UK and Vogue Japan will print topless shots of American actresses who would never pose nude for American magazines.

Nipples will kill American civilization if you show them, you know. It’s a proven fact. To some, anyway.

You got burned by the Heidi Montag pictorial too, eh?

I was in a bookstore that had a US and UK edition of a men’s magazine I can’t remember. Both had the same pictorial of Kristin Davis of Sex in the City fame. She had on a sheer top. The US magazine had the nipples airbrushed out.