Well, there goes the neighborhood, if your neighborhood is magazines being known for the thing they’ve always been known for. Starting in March, after years of circulation struggles, Playboy magazine will no longer include fully nude photos of women, just images of women as naked as you’d see them in any other mainstream publication.
The New York Times reports the news, which, despite Playboy’s recent directional issues, is still somewhat of a shock. In 2013, they made their main site SFW, the second time they’d attempted such a delineation on the web, in order to draw attention to their content that was being overlooked because of the nude photos that lumped them in with magazines like Penthouse (RIP) instead of magazines like GQ or Esquire or the new-and-improved Maxim. (“With an emphasis on lifestyle the site reports on entertainment news, celebrity interviews, Internet trends and beautiful (non-nude) women,” a brief press release noted in February, a more recent foreshadowing of this new change. A day later, they announced their apps for Android and iPhone.) When that site launched, Cory Jones, then senior VP of Digital Content, said their “editorial mantra” was “Would you send this to a friend?”
This new decision, it seems, was also Jones’, who was notably promoted to Chief Content Officer in July, overseeing both print and digital (his predecessor, Jimmy Jellinik, was moved to President of Entertainment, a position concerned with film and television). The Times notes that Jones “nervously” suggested the magazine go non-nude to Editor in Chief Hefner in September, whose day-to-day involvement with the publication has never seemed more tenuous.
There can be no mistaking what this is: yet another attempt to keep Hefner’s once famed publication from entirely losing its relevance in modern society among its most desired class of readership of young well-off men. There’s also a probable interest in trying to continue to gain readership among women; the magazine has clearly courted that market with features on “women’s issues” like college sexual assault or Gamergate.
And as CEO Scott Flanders told the Times, they’re acutely aware of how cutthroat it is out there in the media landscape, and who their competitors are—one could argue that’s entirely what’s driving this decision. “The difference between us and Vice,” Flanders said, “is that we’re going after the guy with a job.” (Coincidentally, just today the Times also reported that one-time Playboy adversary Gloria Steinem—who was also featured in The New Yorker this week—has signed a deal with Vice as a correspondent, which neither Steinem nor Vice confirmed.) He also cited the ubiquity of free nudity on the internet, calling its inclusion in the magazine “passé.”
But the loss of full-on nudity means the company is perhaps losing the only thing it’s been consistently known for years, and it’s a loss they must believe they can make up for in other ways. It was just February when they released their controversially-timed, all-Terry Richardson issue. In March, they featured Azaelia Banks. Before that, their 60th anniversary issue was covered by Kate Moss.
What is Playboy without the nudity? A magazine you can actually say you read for the articles. Like all those other ones out there.
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Images via Playboy