Playboy is known as the most famous and bestselling American men’s magazine in the world evolving from just a magazine to a full-on enterprise including but not limited to — Playboy online, TV, and radio.
Due to growth of a new wave feminism and technological advances, we must ask ourselves is Playboy Enterprises really needed anymore? Or has Playboy run its’ course for content and innovation?
Women are breaking down the walls of traditional gender roles every day and changing the way the society functions and exists as a whole. Meanwhile, the internet is simultaneously working against them with online communities and forums that fetishize certain types of women or support strange and disturbing sexual activity with women, human trafficking is at large, and dating apps like Tinder, Bumble or OkCupid offer society a chance to find love on the go.
So, what is Playboy’s purpose today, if not, sex, culture and music/media?
In 2014, Playboy made over $100 million (M) a year in 25+ countries. However, in March 2016, the magazine switched to a ‘no nudity policy’ with Sarah McDaniel as the first non-nude, no makeup cover model. So, is there still money in the bunny? An analyst from The Guardian says the new brand is irrelevant because “the reasons for its existence are no longer in place.” Only a month later, in April 2016, Playboy Enterprises was on sale for $500 million.
Since then, sales have been changing across the board: rising in single copy sales to 47,203 a month while dropping 23.2% in subscriptions and barely having 10% pickup from newsstands; indicating a decline in consumption of the publication that started this grand enterprise. In late July 2016, the Playboy Mansion was sold to the co-owner of Hostess Brands, Daren Metropoulos for $100M.
In 2018, sales continued to drop lower even after returning nude photos to the magazine issues and online subscriptions like Playboy Plus. As their marketing teams attempted to get their products and content out to millennials, they caused their loyal, older readers to become alienated and displaced from the original brand of Playboy. Their total paid circulation was $206,483 for the six issues in 2018, down by more than a third from a year earlier. It suggests that Cooper Hefner’s move from chief creative officer to chief of global partnerships more than a year ago was not necessarily the best move.
New Playboy Content
Playboy is staying engaged with current controversies and trending media sensations. They currently have several articles published to their website about cannabis (The Dope Tutor), art and activism (Symposium by Juxtapoz), further art and poetry (the Subversive Scribbler), racism in pop culture animation series like The Simpsons, graphic novels and comic series (Money Shot, Powernap) and, of course, gender and technology and even, the science behind sex and pleasure. But, there’s always more to read at Playboy.com.
What’s Next for Playboy?
In September 2018, the Playboy Club in New York City reopened, complete with waitresses dressed in classic bunny attire, and the magazine was focused on rebranding to appeal to a younger generation. In June 2019, the cover photo featured three activists swimming underwater. The women photographer for monthly magazine covers, now play a significant role behind the camera in planning, preparing and directing their artistic vision, which is unprecedented.
So, whether Playboy’s efforts to become more empowering can save the magazine as part of the enterprise remains to be unveiled. A lot has changed since Hugh Hefner started Playboy, and it’s unclear whether it’ll survive another decade. If not, there’s always the iconic logo, and that’s a billion-dollar legacy in it of itself.
***Recent update: As of October 2020, Playboy has filed a lawsuit against Fashion Nova over certain bunny costumes that it says the Southern California-based fast fashion company has marketed and sold in an attempt to “piggyback off of the popularity and renown of Playboy’s iconic Bunny Costume®, which Playboy has cultivated for more than six decades.” Read news articles here: TMZ, The Fashion Law.com, Complex Magazine, Bloomberg Law, NLIP Watch (docket information listed).