From: Dan Stiffler <email@example.com>, 30 Jan 2003
Subject: PLAYBOY: Reinvention
In no way did Hefner invent the genre, but he had the vision—a truly culture-altering vision—to recognize that a niche in the field of men's magazines had opened when Esquire had begun to "reinvent" itself. In some very significant ways, PLAYBOY stepped into Esquire's place and, with Hefner's own genius and passion, improved the original model.
I believe this dynamic between Esquire and PLAYBOY is significant. Hefner has always seen his magazine in relationship to other magazines in the field. Once PLAYBOY displaced Esquire as the top men's magazine, then Hefner had to be aware of *his* competition. Of course, for one glorious and golden decade, he had virtually none. And the magazine could easily stick to its promise made in that 10/54 issue: to never change its policy. [From Dear Playboy, October 1954: "The only policy PLAYBOY has is trying to produce the best possible entertainment magazine for the sophisticated, urban male and that, we assure you, Julius, will never change."]
Now, we have another "challenger" from the British press, Maxim, and instead of showing that it has learned from the past, PLAYBOY seems to be taking this challenge all too seriously. In a Ken-Marcus-like move, PLAYBOY has hired the former editor of Maxim to become its editor. Is this suggesting a if-you-can't-beat-them, make-them-join-you philosophy?
However, the more crucial question is this: who is Maxim's audience? If it is the "sophisticated, urban male," then PLAYBOY may have something to worry about. But I think we all know that "sophistication" is not a hallmark of Maxim, as it clearly is (or was, depending on your view of the glass) for PLAYBOY. Let me ask a simple question when we think about the challenges facing PLAYBOY as it enters its second 50 years. Is there still an audience of "sophisticated, urban males" in this country? (btw, you don't have to live in a city to be "urban"; indeed, PLAYBOY would later use the word "urbane.")
If the answer to that question is yes, then why does PLAYBOY need to "reinvent" itself and make the same mistake that Esquire did before?
If the answer to that question is no, then god help us all.
From: Dan Stiffler <firstname.lastname@example.org>, 04 Feb 2003
Subject: PLAYBOY: Your Father's Oldsmobile?
Here is where I think all the talk about PLAYBOY's target audience goes astray: PLAYBOY always aimed at the "select group of urbane fellows ... concerned with ... good food, drink, proper dress, and the pleasures of female company" (12/54). Why do we think that PLAYBOY—the magazine, that is—needs to aim at the common denominator, the "quarter-educated"? PLAYBOY should feel secure in its niche and not panic every time a Penthouse, Hustler, or Maxim hits the stands. Leave the "quarter-educated" to those guys and be satisfied that PLAYBOY provides the best entertainment for the sophisticated man.
From: Alfred Urrutia <email@example.com>, 22 Apr 2003
Subject: The Danger of Celebrity
What was a big deal is comparatively minor now—nudity of beautiful models. Sure, Playmates are still, for the most part, the most beautiful and the most admirable. But there are porn actresses who should be Playmates (especially considering the views of some that some Playmates *shouldn't* have become Playmates), internet porn is everywhere, Girls Gone Wild is acceptable and finds hundreds of amazing looking girls, Hooters and Hawaiian Tropic have beauty contests and as much exposure as a typical Playmate gets, etc. It's too easy to find cheap/free nudity, it's too much trouble to keep track of which model is a Playmate for what month. PLAYBOY was too successful. Now everybody has their "centerfolds" and their models and their tease.
[Note from PW: PLAYBOY should take the fact that there are more options today as a challenge to develop/evolve their niche, and do it better than anyone else—deliver what no one else does. Take the best aspects of the competition's qualities and adapt and improve on it.]