January 20, 2016 Last Updated 12:09 pm

Updated: Penthouse to launch digital edition, but buyout may be in works as company hedges on print closure

The publisher now is back tracking on its widely reported shuttering of Penthouse, saying the press misinterpreted its press release

The days of the lad mags may be coming to a close, as the publisher of Penthouse magazine said it would shutter its print edition and go digital-only (according to reports that may, in fact, be wrong – see the update below).

The magazine will continue to be published until a transition to digital is completed. “No specific date to stop print publication of our flagship magazine has been set,” said Ezra Shashoua, CFO of FriendFinder Networks, the magazine’s publisher.

“This will be a new way for its readers to experience the world’s best adult magazine. Reimagined for the preferred consumption of content today by consumers, the digital version of Penthouse Magazine will combine and convert everything readers know and love about the print magazine experience to the power of a digital experience,” the publisher said in a statement released this afternoon.

Reports say the move will mean that Penthouse will close its magazine division in New York, publishing the new digital edition out of its Los Angeles headquarters.

Update – Jan. 20: Keith Kelly of the NYPost is reporting that Penthouse President Kelly Holland is trying to find funding to buy Penthouse in order to keep it in print. Unfortunately, Kelly also reports that the magazine has already laid off 20 staffers.***

Meanwhile, after getting plenty of negative press about its announcement that it would close its print edition, the magazine is now hedging a bit, saying that people were misinterpreting its press release. This is a bit disingenuous, as the publisher never widely distributed the press release but instead sent it out to select outlets. TNM certainly never saw a copy. And after the original stories appeared the magazine did not dispute the reports. Now, however, Holland is saying the magazine will stay in print. OK. We believe her.

Penthouse was founded by Bob Guccione in 1965 in England, then in the US in 1969. The magazine proved successful and made Guccione very rich, but other magazine launches did not fare as well, and in 2003, General Media, the parent company of the magazine, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Guccione resigned as Chairman and CEO of Penthouse International, the parent of General Media, in 2004.

Penthouse Media Group purchased Various, Inc., the parent company for the online dating service FriendFinder Networks, for $500 million in 2007. The company then changed its name to FriendFinder Networks. Things continued downhill and FriendFinder Networks filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September of 2013. It emerged from bankruptcy protection in December of that year, having eliminated $300 million in debt (ain’t bankruptcy great).

At one point, in better times, the publisher of Penthouse had offered to buy Playboy from Hugh Hefner, but was rejected. Now, with the March issue, Playboy will stop publishing nude model photo features, and soon Penthouse will be out of print, but no doubt with nude models inside whatever digital edition the publisher comes up with. One assumes that the digital version will be online only as it is unlikely that the major digital newsstands will accept a new app for the magazine if it continues to offer nudity.

*** By the way, note the little bit of SEO work done on Kelly’s story. It originally had the rather tame headline of “Can a last minute buyout keep Penthouse in print.” Then, the headline was changed, likely by someone at the Post in charge of creating click-bait.