The way the New York Times tells it, Playboy editor Cory Jones went to see Hugh Hefner at the Playboy mansion in Holmby Hills and made the case. America had moved on and the magazine that Hefner started in 1953 with an assist from Marilyn Monroe should stop publishing fully nude photos. Hefner, 89, agreed and with the March 2016 issue, a newly redesigned Playboy will drop the nudes. Semi-naked women in provocative poses, yes. There will still be a Playmate of the Month but no women in the magazine will be completely nude.
It's of course a survival strategy. And a cultural marker about America. From the NYT story:
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 [nudity] is 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.
It is difficult, in a media market that has been so fragmented by the web, to imagine the scope of Playboy’s influence at its peak. A judge once ruled that denying blind people a Braille version of it violated their First Amendment rights. It published stories by Margaret Atwood and Haruki Murakami among others, and its interviews have included Malcolm X, Vladimir Nabokov, Martin Luther King Jr. and Jimmy Carter, who admitted that he had lusted in his heart for women other than his wife. Madonna, Sharon Stone and Naomi Campbell posed for the magazine at the peak of their fame. Its best-selling issue, in November of 1972, sold more than seven million copies.
The Playboy website had already made itself safe for workplace computers (and Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) and seen the user base expand and get younger, the NYT says. According to Jones, who is chief content officer, the Playboy magazine sex columnist will be a “sex-positive female,” writing enthusiastically about sex. Fiction, interviews and investigative journalism will remain.
The target audience, Mr. Flanders said, is young men who live in cities. “The difference between us and Vice,” he said, “is that we’re going after the guy with a job.”
When I posted about his on Twitter earlier tonight, somebody asked if it was a story from The Onion. Nope — just the culture moving on.
Previously on LA Observed:
34 years at Playboy: that's enough, right?
Yasiel Puig with Chris Brown at the Playboy Mansion
Playboy to end Chicago era, join Larry Flynt in Beverly Hills
Playboy Mansion makes people sick, officially this time
Hugh Hefner accepts historical honor
Hefner sells Playboy Mansion adjacent
Playboy goes a little gay
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