Hugh Hefner agreed to do away with nude photos in Playboy: good idea?

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For a while now, Playboy’s profits have been in the toilet. No one really cares about the magazine anymore, and I’ve heard rumors that the subscription part of Playboy.com isn’t really raking it in. The answer might be a rebranding effort, possibly taking creative control out of Hugh Hefner’s hands. While Hef has handed over big chunks of his Playboy empire to other people (including his kids), Hef still has a huge say in what happens to and within his magazine. And… you can sort of tell. There are parts of Playboy that seem very dated and out-of-touch, especially in this era of internet p0rn and all of that. So what’s the answer? How does one rebrand Playboy? The answer seems to be… less nude photos? What the what?

Last month, Cory Jones, a top editor at Playboy, went to see its founder Hugh Hefner at the Playboy Mansion. In a wood-paneled dining room, with Picasso and de Kooning prints on the walls, Mr. Jones nervously presented a radical suggestion: the magazine, a leader of the revolution that helped take sex in America from furtive to ubiquitous, should stop publishing images of naked women.

Mr. Hefner, now 89, but still listed as editor in chief, agreed. As part of a redesign that will be unveiled next March, the print edition of Playboy will still feature women in provocative poses. But they will no longer be fully nude.

Its executives admit that Playboy has been overtaken by the changes it pioneered. “That battle has been fought and won,” said Scott Flanders, the company’s chief executive. “You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. And so it’s just passé at this juncture.”

For a generation of American men, reading Playboy was a cultural rite, an illicit thrill consumed by flashlight. Now every teenage boy has an Internet-connected phone instead. Pornographic magazines, even those as storied as Playboy, have lost their shock value, their commercial value and their cultural relevance.

Playboy’s circulation has dropped from 5.6 million in 1975 to about 800,000 now, according to the Alliance for Audited Media. Many of the magazines that followed it have disappeared. Though detailed figures are not kept for adult magazines, many of those that remain exist in severely diminished form, available mostly in specialist stores. Penthouse, perhaps the most famous Playboy competitor, responded to the threat from digital pornography by turning even more explicit. It never recovered.

Previous efforts to revamp Playboy, as recently as three years ago, have never quite stuck. And those who have accused it of exploiting women are unlikely to be assuaged by a modest cover-up. But, according to its own research, Playboy’s logo is one of the most recognizable in the world, along with those of Apple and Nike. This time, as the magazine seeks to compete with younger outlets like Vice, Mr. Flanders said, it sought to answer a key question: “if you take nudity out, what’s left?”

[From The NYT]

The Times has more details about the other changes being made to the Playboy brand. Apparently, they’ve already “cleaned up” the Playboy site to make it safer for work. They want to get more social media coverage and the actual magazine “will adopt a cleaner, more modern style,” with the editorials being more “PG-13.” They will add a “sex-positive female” sex columnist. Beyond the nudity, the political and journalism coverage will be much of the same. I’m assuming their 20 Questions and “The Playboy Interview” features will stay the same (because frankly, those features are really good). Basically, they’re trying to appeal to men who not only have a subscription to GQ and Esquire, but the men who read Esquire, The Daily Beast, Gawker, the New York Times and GQ online. The thing is… men are already getting what they need from those other media outlets. Playboy without naked photos just seems… redundant? Is that the word?

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Photos courtesy of WENN, Playboy.

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33 Responses to “Hugh Hefner agreed to do away with nude photos in Playboy: good idea?”

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  1. EN says:

    Less is more, it is high time they understood it.
    Though, in all honesty I don’t think they got it.
    I think their sales are hurting because now they have to compete with online and they are trying to broaden their “audience”.

    • Neah23 says:

      Everything you said is true, but let’s be real people mainly man are not buying Playboy for the articles.

    • Down and Out says:

      Compete with online, yes. But redoing their website to make it “safe for work”? I’d be interested to know where people are working that they’d be comfortable with browsing the Playboy site, with or without nudity.

  2. Katija says:

    My first college roommate was a newly out gay girl who subscribed to Playboy because I guess she thought, “well this is something people who are attracted to women do.” She never read them and they just piled up in the fancy magazine holder that my mother got us for the bathroom. So… I will forever have fond memories of reading Playboy on the toilet in my first college apartment. (Oh, but now I’m remembering how gross we kept that bathroom…)

    • My grandpa buried his Playboy magazines under a huge pile of towels in the bathroom…yea, I found it. Yea, I looked at the pictures while on the toilet and was amazed anyone that amazing enough to subscribe for it. All of the women were fake blondes, skinny, with huge (fake) boobs. You’ve seen one magazine, you’ve seen them all. LOL.

      • funcakes says:

        What child hasn’t found their father poorly hidden Playboy Magazine, porn tape and condoms. Hell I’ve even found their naked Polaroids of each other and showed it to the other neighborhood kids when I was ten.

        Now that I just typed that I finally realized why I was always under punishment.

      • evermoreOriginalhere says:

        Not all the boobs are fake, a woman I know posed for the Centerfold and hers are real.

        It will be interesting to see if Playboy sells w/o nudity.

      • bob says:

        The girls were natural in the 80′s, just airbrushed.

  3. Kdlaf says:

    As soon as I saw hugh’s picture I legit thought this post was going to be about him dying or something, hes been around forever it seems. They need to let playboy go with dignity – it seems more like a joke at this point and extremely behind in the times.

    • Naya says:

      Fingers crossed the “empire” collapses before Hugh breathes his last. Buying ocassionally great interviews will never compensate for the way he normalised the insanity that went on at the Playboy Mansion. We now know that some of the girls were underage, we know that many were drugged and we know there was a code of silence that persists to this day. I love that every few years he faces a new humiliation but watching the mag die before his eyes is perfect.

    • Kosmos says:

      Gag, I hate Hugh Hefner, always have, and I can’t stand his entire culture and what he stands for. I’ve heard about the weirdness in the Mansion and how strange things are there. He built this big emprire and I don’t admire him for it. I wish he’d just go away.

  4. Sam says:

    I think it’s just not being able to keep up with the internet. Years ago, being able to see a fully naked woman was shocking. Today, nobody cares. The internet ruined them.

    From what I’ve seen of the mag through my years, it seemed to have a very “one size fits all” view of women. They all fit within a fairly narrow mold – always skinny, always busty, etc. And actual men have variations of what they like, and the internet is more than willing to cater to that idea. Playboy wasn’t. Simple as that.

    Now they should out it down with dignity.

  5. boredblond says:

    Now you know people only bought it for the articles! hehehe…several decades too late to be a relevant story.

  6. Donna says:

    I think that they ought to have done a huge, finale blowout issue with gorgeous retrospectives and new shoots, thrown a giant party, and called it quits.
    Playboy isn’t Playboy without the nudes, and the market for those in magazines just isn’t there anymore because it’s all available online for free.
    Playboy should have just finished gloriously and have been done with it.
    They could make money on marketing retro Playboy products going forward.

    • PunkyMomma says:

      That’s a great idea! There is a time to take a bow and exit the stage gracefully – for everyone.

    • Wren says:

      That’s a great idea! Go for the nostalgia aspect, goodness knows it’s old enough for that. Have a Limited Edition run with old photo spreads or even reprints of old issues, the “classic” ones with iconic actresses and such. I could see people being interested in that. Then have a big party and retire with dignity. Rest on the laurels. Playboy was in integral part of American culture, but just like everything it served its purpose and is no longer relevant. That’s fine, there’s no shame in saying your job is done and moving on.

      I’m having a hard time seeing how Playboy can revamp itself enough to stay competitive. The only thing that comes to mind for me is to make it more exclusive, not less. Keep the popular features, like the interviews and stuff, and have the occasional photo shoot with very select subjects in a limited release type thing. Maybe that wouldn’t be profitable, but that’s the only thing that would retain “the image” so to speak. Right now it’s just an old lad rag headed by an old lad. *yawn*

  7. Bridget says:

    Who’d have thought that seeing naked photos of interchangeable tan, blond women with big fake boobs wasn’t enough to keep sales going?

    • Bridget says:

      Also, “the battle has been won”? Thanks for the memo, dude.

    • Petee says:

      That’s one of the problems.The girls all looked the same.Blonde hair.fake boob’s and long thin legs.And the overly airbrushed photos didn’t help either.Variety is the spice of life and all the girls were just carbon copy’s of one another.Nothing stuck out.

  8. Dr. Funkenstein says:

    I think Hef has always harbored delusions about the literary quality of his magazine. I have never, ever, met anyone who bought Playboy to read the articles. That’s not proof that there isn’t any market, but frankly, I can’t believe he could stay afloat long without the nudes — and as everyone here agrees, that’s just not a big deal in 2015. It’s done, and he should just gracefully fade away.

  9. JenniferJustice says:

    The entire nudie mag idea is completely passe`. Back in the day, a soft porn mag was the only form of sexual entertainment or stimulation resource available. It’s not just that people can look at nudge women on the internet, it’s that they can watch them do so much more than just posing for a picture. I have no doubt, all the men who’ve switched to the internet v. Play Boy Magazine, are not just looking at still photos of nude women. They are watching porn videos, chatting, live streaming, etc. The days of men being satisfied with a mere picture are over. It was different when that was all they could muster, but now? The sky is the limit.

    As far as trying to rebrand Play Boy as some kind of read-worthy magazine is just silly. If a man is interested in fashion or simply reading a decent article geared toward men, I don’t see Play Boy being that choice no matter how they try to rebrand it.

    BTW – Kate sure was a gorgeous woman.

    • Tessy says:

      Yes she is, but I don’t like that open mouth photo, I actually find it a somewhat disturbing picture, like shes terrified about something.

  10. I think it’s a good idea in theory, but I don’t see it drastically changing the sales of the magazines. I think the excitement of Playboy (in addition to their sometimes very good articles) is the thought of seeing the boobs of some celebrity. Or some tush.

    Overall, internet killed the Playboy star.

  11. funcakes says:

    Good Lord man give it up. It’s ovahhh! You can get naked pictures of everyone on the internet. I can hook you up couple of free links.
    Hefs just afraid all the pretty little ladies are going to stop coming to his mansion. If they do that his circle of male buddies will dry up.
    Besides everyone knows that his” girlfriends” are just for show.
    The Playboy Mansion was nothing more than The Chicken Ranch.

  12. meme says:

    why bother paying when girls/women are posting naked pictures of themselves on Instagram?

  13. Alarmjaguar says:

    Funny, but classic playboy was never really about the nudes. Provocative sexy pictures, yes, but not really nudes. I’ve had my students do research projects using playboy from the 50s and 60s and they’re always shocked by the fact that it was much more like a Maxim then what we came to expect from Playboy. They may be going back to the roots and that might help them

  14. jawnyjawn says:

    This is for anyone saying PB has no read value nd making the old worn out ” for the articles” joke… I’m a man. I’m 33. I never subscribed to playboy. But I have always been excited to pick one up. From puberty to mid teens it was for the pictures. From mid teens to early 20′s it was to see celebrities nude. Since then I could care less about the pictures and often don’t even look at them – I pick it up because it is a great read month in and month out. playboy really is an extremely well written and informative magazine that offers a wide range of content from news on current events, revealing no holds barred interviews with interesting subjects, short fiction pieces from top writers, exposes , updates on fashion and technologicAl trends, product and entertainment reviews and the list goes on. Maxim/GQ are playboy without nipples.

    In short playboy really is an excellent read and it always has been. Even before internet porn most men over 18-21 were way past getting turned on by pictures anyway. In other words it was never the pics that kept it going. Any one who dismisses playboy as a nudie mag or makes the “just for the articles” jokes has obviously never really read a playboy with an open mind. If they had/would they would see everything I said here is spot on.

  15. jawnyjawn says:

    Here s a mathematical way to put it – in the 15 years since I stopped being a horny teenager 97% of the time I was holding a playboy was spent reading content that always was and continues to be second to none.

  16. jawnyjawn says:

    And 100% of the time I had both hands on the magazine…

  17. Shoe_Lover says:

    I actually own a playboy but only because it’s the Dita Von Teese issue and i am a HUGE fan. and you know what, there are actually really good articles in there. so that isn’t a joke.
    however, the real problem with playboy is that it allowed d listers and reality stars to grace it’s cover. it used to get big/biggish stars, now it’s tarnishd by the dregs of Hollywood. Internet nudes are one thing, nude Hollywood actresses are another. but now thats ruined by Lohan and Heidi Montag. i don’t count the GND as they were Hef’s girlfriends too