‘Playboy’ Ditches Nudes

Playboy magazine has been an American treasure for men (and boys) since December 1953. In their March 2016 issue, though, readers will no longer find fully nude models and Playmates on the pages.

Playboy founder and Editor-in-Chief Hugh Hefner, 89, agreed to the changes proposed to him at the Playboy Mansion by Playboy’s Chief Content Officer Cory Jones. According to an article in the New York Post, Playboy’s chief executive Scott Flanders knew that, in order to compete with other magazines, a radical change had to be made.

Alliance for Audited Media says Playboy’s circulation dropped from 5.6 million in 1975 to where it is today at 800,000. Even with a revamp three years ago, it didn’t help. One of the major hurdles was providing content that was acceptable on social media. Playboy launched The Smoking Jacket as a counter to the usual NSFW content on their primary website, Playboy.com. All that remains of that is a Facebook page with the last entry from February of this year.

Playboy founder Hugh Hefner and his wife, Crystal Hefner
When Playboy removed nudity from their primary website last year, the average age of users dropped from 47 to just over 30-years-old, while the unique visitor amount grew from four million to 16 million per month. TechCrunch says Playboy can’t exist in the current climate. Certainly, that had something to do with the motivation to change the iconic lad mag. However, with all the content online for free, will that grab the attention of millennials?

Jones said that the magazine will still have a Playmate of the Month, but Playboy hasn’t decided if there will be a centerfold. The models will be in “provocative poses,” just not nude. Jones added the magazine will be more intimate and more accessible.

“Don’t get me wrong, Twelve-year-old me is very disappointed in current me. But it’s the right thing to do.”

While the magazine itself loses $3 million annually in the United States, licensing and branding of the famous Playboy logo is big business. Forty percent of its licensing business comes from China, where the magazine isn’t even available. The New York Times article says that the licensed editions from around the world are profitable as well.

Of course, nudity is available online at the push of a button. You’re not likely to find a group of boys huddled in the locker room over a torn out photo of Miss September. Playboy has made their entire collection available at iPlayboy in addition to collections on DVD and Blu-ray. They also offer a subscription based website, Playboy Plus, which currently has far more nude content than what’s available in the newsstand magazine.

Playboy has a huge following on Twitter and Instagram, due in part to the creation of “Frisky Friday” by Playmate Shera Bechard. Women tweet sexy photos of themselves to Playboy, and it’s been a great success. Some on Twitter who grew up with Playboy magazine are expressing their feelings about the no nudity change.

Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, known as “Hef,” is the king of the American sexual revolution. Coming off of an unsatisfying job at Esquire where he was refused a $5 raise, the married father of two borrowed the money to start Playboy out of his Chicago kitchen. Playboy took off like a meteor, with Hef’s first issue featuring a color nude of “Sweetheart of the Month” Marilyn Monroe. He divorced in 1959, and his children, Christie and David, primarily lived with their mother.

Hefner introduced the country to the “Girl Next Door” through Playboy. Rather than models, the Playmate of the Month could be a dress shop clerk or your secretary — he even used some of his own employees. Playboy also presented men with a lifestyle they had only dreamed of, with intellectual fiction, interviews, and, of course, “the articles,” which everyone read Playboy for.

The 60s were the golden age of Playboy, and the Playboy Clubs and the Playboy Bunny were introduced. Bunnies, servers, and hostesses in the clubs were carefully selected and taught a rigid set of regulations (no dating Keyholders!) structured by Hefner’s brother, Keith. In the Bunny Manual, it mentions that one club had 500 applicants and only 40 had the “personality and physical beauty required” to be a Bunny. The clubs were a huge success, and Playboy went on to open hotels, resorts, a record company, and more.

Hef hosted two TV programs, Playboy’s Penthouse (1959–60) and Playboy After Dark (1969–70). Celebrities, up and coming musical artists, and Playmates would mingle around a bachelor pad, drinks and smokes in hand. The Root featured an article about Hugh Hefner being a Civil Rights pioneer. Hefner often featured black entertainers during a time where it was unusual to see different races hanging out together on television.

In the early 70s, Playboy was at seven million copies per month. In 1972, they made a $12 million profit. The magazine started showing full-frontal nudity in a bid to keep up with competing men’s magazines. Hefner moved from his native Chicago to Holmby Hills, California, and the stunning Playboy Mansion. He embraced “California living” and built a zoo on the property along with the infamous Grotto.

Hefner had several long-term relationships with women, but after a stroke in 1985, he married Playmate Kimberly Conrad and had two sons, Marston and Cooper. In 1988, his daughter Christie took over as editor of Playboy. In 1998, Hefner and Conrad separated, and his friends convinced the homebody to go out to clubs and meet new people. Soon, Hef had seven girlfriends and a new outlook on life. As he’d predicted in an old letter to his future self, he “reinvented” himself.

“You will reinvent yourself again. You will come from behind the desk to become Mr. Playboy – the embodiment of the magazine you created. You will even inspire those around you to reinvent themselves.”

Hugh Hefner eventually cut down his “party posse” to three girlfriends and started filming the very popular reality show The Girl’s Next Door. Holly Madison, Bridget Marquardt, and Kendra Wilkinson, who were never Playmates, helped make Playboy more popular with women, and sales of the magazine and merchandise increased. Madison recently wrote a vicious tell-all book that has been widely panned as fiction by Hefner, many of his former girlfriends, and Playmates.

After the three women left the relationship, Hefner met Crystal Harris at his 2008 Halloween party. Harris and twins Karissa and Kristina Shannon became Hef’s girlfriends and starred in one season of The Girl’s Next Door. Crystal was made Playboy’s Miss December 2010 in a beautiful Christmas-themed pictorial. Soon, Harris became Hef’s only girlfriend, and the couple got engaged. After a short breakup, the couple married on New Year’s Eve 2012.

Playboy Miss December and Mrs. Hugh Hefner, Crystal Hefner.
Regardless of ownership, Hugh Hefner (who now owns 30 percent) has always been the one to choose the Playboy Playmate and pictorial. It’s not known if he’ll continue with that role after the new changes.

Do you think Playboy magazine will survive the digital era?

[Photo by Rachel Murray, Charley Gallay (2)/Getty Images for Playboy]