With its decision to no longer publish nude photos in its print magazine, has Playboy Magazine redefined itself for the modern age or has it finally jumped the shark?
For Playboy, the status quo has, inarguably, not been working. For years, it has suffered declining readership. Their combination of tasteful nudity and high quality writing/interviews is being eroded at both ends. People looking for nudity are going online. People looking for quality literary content are going elsewhere – both online and publications like Esquire or the Atlantic – magazines they can read, without embarrassment, on a plane.
Playboy’s response to this squeeze is interesting… Playboy PG 13 They will try to keep the same quality and edginess in their writing, but in a print edition that no longer carries the stigma of a ‘nudie’ mag. While they needed to try something you wonder what will not distinguish them from the other magazines in this space. Clearly, they will continue to have much better writing than the other ‘lads magazines’ like Maxim and FHM.
Distinguishing themselves from the Esquires, GQs, and the like will be tougher. They will need to keep/add an edginess and a sexiness to their content that Esquire and GQ have never masters. But this will be a challenge… for a nudie magazine, Playboys’ writing was never that sexy. As good as their reporting was (and it was very good) it wasn’t really sexy. As they go forward, if they are going to carve out space, I think they need to find another way (a non-pectoral way) to be sexy. This is doable, but may be in conflict with their competing desire to downplay their sexy past.
Personally, I will miss the old Playboy. With my wife and I would consider ourselves unabashed fans of good writing, interesting interviews and tasteful nudity. Although I always conformed to societal norms and never read Playboy in public, I would – in truth – be more embarrassed being caught reading Star, People or The Enquirer, than I would being caught reading Playboy. The brain mush that passes for writing in People is way less offensive to our hearts and souls than the tasteful nudity of Playboy…. but I digress.
In the words of Playboy’s current editor “the 12 year old me is very disappointed in the current me… but its the right thing to do”.