August 25, 2014 Last Updated 11:04 am

Playboy launches new website that downplays nudity, plays up social media appropriateness

Magazine founded in 1953 launches new website with ‘highly sharable’ content that is office friendly, but with little of the literary genius that made the magazine a success in earlier days

What to do with a legacy media brand that is not naughty enough to be pornographic, but not work friendly enough to attract mainstream advertising? That is the dilemma facing Playboy online and in print.

Playboy-websiteToday the company unveiled a new Playboy.com website that the publisher says features “highly sharable content verticals” and “non-nude features on the women.”

“The launch of the new Playboy.com is a key component in our plan to rebuild Playboy’s integrated media platform in a way that articulates our global brand, provides innovative opportunities for advertisers, supports our global licensees, and continues to fuel our growing digital audience,” said Playboy Enterprises, CEO Scott Flanders.

The new Playboy may not be your father’s idea of Playboy, but it might be your grandfather’s idea of Playboy.

Scott_Flanders-featureScott Flanders is not exactly the obvious successor to Hugh Hefner – no silk pajamas for Flanders in his Playboy Enterprises photo. Flanders, 57, was born in Indianapolis, worked for Macmillan and then Columbia House, another legacy brand in search for a solution in the modern world (it didn’t find one). Flanders then became president of Freedom Communications in 2006. He seems to be brought in in order to lure Blackstone Group to invest as this is precisely what happened at Columbia House and Freedom.

Many media reporters, like Ricardo Bilton at Digiday, may laugh at the idea that men used to actually read Playboy for its articles, as if was just what old guys say to make it socially acceptable. But the roll call of great writers who appeared in Playboy is quite long. And as Bilton just graduated from college in 2010 I doubt seriously that he would have been the target audience for Playboy in its heyday – and neither was I.

hugh-hefner-featurePlayboy was launched in 1953 and its editorial legacy is actually very rich. It serialized Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 in 1954, for instance. During the 1960’s it featured fiction from John Updike, Doris Lessing, Joyce Carol Oates, Vladimir Nabokov, and many others, plus interviews with Roots author Alex Haley, (and an interview ith Malcolm X by Alex Haley in 1963), Woody Allen, Mel Brooks and others.

It’s best selling issue, according to Wikipedia, sold over 7 million copies in 1972, though I would bet that even by then the magazine had seen better day.

Today, Playboy has a circulation of 1,062,790, of which it has only a little over 30K in paid digital circulation. In 2011 Playboy launched a web app after Steve Jobs made it clear that Apple devices would be free of porn. Of course, Jobs is now dead, and Apple is allowing Russian developers to launch porn apps into the store. But it remains unlikely that Apple would, even today, allow a high profile brand such as Playboy to launch an app into the Newsstand.

So the new Playboy.com is Playboy without the nudity, and without the world-class writers. Sounds boring to me, but maybe bored 20-something office workers will love it.

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