Playboy50 digest, Vol 1 #15 - 1 msg

Peggy Wilkins
Wed, 29 Jan 2003 23:30:40 -0600

To address some of the comments Brad made in his recent post...

I don't think the Hefner/Guccione comparison is a particularly useful
one.  Hefner's lifestyle is some of the best marketing Playboy could
possibly have; I don't think the same can be said for Guccione and
Penthouse.  From reading Playboy's annual reports, I know that Hefner
pays the corporation for his personal use of the Playboy Mansion,
which is a corporate property; and I also recall reading that the
mansion is rented out for use for events.  All things considered, I
think these issues are more of an asset than a liability for PEI
(though of course not seeing the bottom line, I can't know that for
sure).  I also don't think the personalities of the two men are in any
way comparable.  At the very least, Hef is someone I'd like to know
better; and if I saw Guccione walking down the street, I'd probably
cross to the other side.  (Sorry to be so dismissive, but it's how I

Re: advertising -- I am under the impression that advertisers'
difficulties with Playboy have little to do with circulation issues;
Playboy is still one of the top 20 circulating magazines and is right
up there with Time and Newsweek.  I believe it is more of an issue
that they don't want to be identified with the magazine because of the
very vocal protests of some of their customers, who do things like
organize boycotts against companies that advertise in Playboy, as an
extreme example.  In general, some are simply unwilling to take the
stand because they believe that being associated with Playboy might
adversely affect their sales.

Re: appeal to a younger audience -- I think that Playboy has more
appeal to a young audience today than it did a decade ago.  For
instance, the bunny head has recently turned up in prominent venues
such as Vogue magazine, a necklace worn regularly by Sarah Jessica
Parker in Sex and the City, and on tshirts on the MTV series The Real
World, among many other places.  Those are all young and hip things.
I see Playboy tshirts worn by young women around Chicago, and even in
my college neighborhood (even if we can't buy the magazine here).  It
may not be ubiquitous, but it is definitely out there, and more
visibly in public than it used to be.  The Playboy brand is going
strong with the young.

Re: circulation of Playboy vs. its competitors -- take a look at the
statistics for the top 200 paid circulation magazines for the first
half of 2002 here:  Playboy
rates at number 19, which is very good.  According to this page,
Playboy's average paid circulation rose 2.1% compared to the same time
period the previous year.  Compare this to Maxim which went up 2.2%;
the increases are very comparable.  But with a smaller circulation to
begin with, Maxim had a smaller increase in actual reader numbers.  I
don't believe that Playboy is losing readers right now, though from
earlier figures, they were for a while.  I think this is quite good
news given how much more visible the competitors are at the newsstand.
I hope those numbers continue to increase, and maybe they can with
some good subscription/promotion strategies.  And I've already
mentioned the obvious point that improved newsstand visibility for
Playboy would help it compete.  (Gretchen suggests we as readers might
be able to help with that, so I'm starting to look into a good
organized way to do this, btw.)

Switching to some direct quotes:

    Brad> What can Playboy do? They seem to be addressing the
    Brad> problem. The design of the magazine is much more Maxim-like,
    Brad> with wild fonts, shorter articles and features, etc. The new
    Brad> editor is a distinct tip-off that this is the direction
    Brad> they'll go in. This is off-putting to long-time readers, but
    Brad> I think we all agree that the Playboy of 1966 is gone
    Brad> forever. It's unlikely we'll see long essays, fiction by
    Brad> John Updike, or interviews with the likes of Robert
    Brad> Graves. Instead we get two-page splashes and interviews with
    Brad> David Spade. It's a matter of survival.

Here is where I'd really like to sit down with their editors and ask
them, how would they characterize how Playboy has changed over the
years, and what was their thinking behind making substantive
changes/evolving Playboy.  It could be very interesting to open up a
discussion about that thinking.  At least I think so.  It's the sort
of discussion that it's very difficult to have with just ourselves,
because not knowing their motivation, we can't speak about it in any
real, reasonable way.

BTW, I wouldn't call their current layout more Maxim-like; it is
rather more modern, up-to-date, what's happening now, at least in the
features that use this approach.  I think Maxim has a more messy,
jumbled look -- and I hope that look stays out of Playboy.

    Brad> .... Why would a starlet pose for Maxim
    Brad> instead of Playboy? Maxim doesn't even pay. Non-nudity, I
    Brad> would imagine. I think Playboy will have to go into this
    Brad> arena...

I could see this being done as an expansion of current pictorial
content; I think replacement would be a bad idea.  Make it really
visually stunning; nothing routine here.

    Brad> I do hope, though, that Playboy tries to remain relevant as
    Brad> a journal of some sophistication, which Maxim lacks
    Brad> entirely.

Indeed, that is its niche, and it's been very successful in that way.