PLAYBOY/Kaminsky feature: Reuters

Peggy Wilkins
Tue, 06 May 2003 10:26:01 -0500

May 6, 2003
Playboy's New Editor Reshapes Aging Bunny

Filed at 10:12 a.m. ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Attention men! Prefer journalism to wacky story
blurbs? Cool martinis to frothy beer? Nearly naked female celebs to
fully naked unknowns? Playboy's new editor James Kaminsky says he's
got a magazine for you.

After months of nips and tucks to stop the signs of aging at the
50-year-old publication, founded by sexual revolution icon Hugh
Hefner, Playboy is fresh from its makeover.

Kaminsky, 42, told Reuters he is ready to showcase a magazine that is
similar in substance but different in style -- and put some of the
clothes back on.

With a new editorial staff, Kaminsky and Playboy magazine, owned by
Playboy Enterprises Inc., are set to recapture the throne that Hefner,
now 77, refuses to abdicate. The magazine lost ground on newsstands
with the arrival in the late 90s of so-called ``lad mags'' like Maxim,
Stuff and FHM.

The new formula? More photos teamed with still strong journalism, more
lifestyle, leisure and fashion and more pictorials of celebrities with
perhaps a bit more clothes.

``My goal is to take this great editorial package that has worked for
50 years and move it forward for a new generation, without losing the
things that have worked so well to date,'' Kaminsky said in an

Playboy was founded in 1953 by then 27-year-old Hefner. By combining
pictures of beautiful women -- Marilyn Monroe was the first nude
centerfold -- with literary and journalistic pieces Hefner, or just
plain ``Hef,'' made Playboy a household name.

The magazine now has a U.S. circulation of 3.2 million, still the
largest in its category, but about half of what it had during its hey

``The magazine had not changed dramatically since the 50s and the
audience of the magazine probably grew older,'' said Dennis McAlpine,
managing partner at McAlpine Associates.

With Maxim, FHM and Stuff crowding the newsstands and the industry
facing the worst advertising slump in recent history, Playboy's
newsstand sales suffered and its glossy reputation dulled.

There is ``a lot more color. It hits you, it's not subtle,'' McAlpine
said about the revamped magazine. ``The editorial content is still
there. It may actually make the older reader feel younger. And that's
a positive.''


For the first time in 2002, Playboy Enterprises' TV, movie and video
revenue eclipsed publishing, which was hurt by lower magazine sales.

Playboy's closest competitor is Dennis Publishing's Maxim, whose
U.S. edition, launched in 1997, has a circulation of 2.5
million. Stuff, another Dennis magazine based on the successful
beer-and-babes formula, has a circulation of 1.2 million.

Kaminsky was lured from Maxim in September to replace Arthur
Kretchmer, Playboy's editorial boss for nearly four decades. But how
do you resculpt the magazine without it appearing like it's in
mid-life crisis?

``We need to add new people on the newsstand ... by making the
magazine more visual, making it livelier and relevant,'' Kaminsky
said. ``It's an evolution, not a revolution. I don't want to lose
those 2.8 million'' subscribers to the magazine.

But grabbing the attention in times when generous flesh display is
common on supermarket and book store magazine racks -- a recent
Rolling Stone cover featured singer Christina Aguilera wearing only a
guitar -- may be tough.

Playboy's pictorials with well-known movie and TV stars in the buff
have always been among their best selling issues, but getting A-list
actresses, singers and models to appear totally nude has been

Kaminsky has brought in Heidi Parker, formerly an editor for Movie
Line magazine, as the magazine's West Coast editor in a move to add
more names to the bow-tied bunny's little black book.

Parker ``is lining up big celebrities,'' Kaminsky said. ``We haven't
been as aggressive in that arena as we might have been over the last
four or five years. Now is time for us to take our prisoners and to
introduce all Hollywood to this magazine.''

In pictorials, Playboy may allow more clothes -- ``but in a very sexy
way,'' Kaminsky said -- if doing so guarantees having a well-known
personality on its pages. Nudity ``is something we embrace,'' he
said. ``But there are different levels of nudity.''


To widen appeal, Playboy is also spicing up the ethnic mix of its
models. Playmate of the Year Christina Santiago, featured in the June
issue and who has Puerto Rican background, is the first Hispanic to
notch the coveted title.

``It is a very diverse world, the concept of beauty constantly changes
and that needed to be more represented in the magazine,'' Kaminsky

Kaminsky said Playboy will remain true to the editorial content that
has lured famed writers, actors and sportsmen to its pages and won't
downsize to the bits-and-blurb format that has worked so well for its

``There's a theory in the air that guys 18-to-34 won't read big
stories, don't read ambitious pieces and they want pieces broken up,''
he said. ``But we are not Maxim, we don't want to be. We are not
self-deprecating, drunk guys at a frat party. Our tone is smarter,

However, Playboy is adding more humor to the magazine along with new
sections, like a video-game review and more solid fashion coverage
that uses professional male skateboarders and surfers as models, to
remain relevant and attract advertisers.

Over the past two weeks, Kaminsky, Playboy Enterprises' Chief
Executive Christie Hefner and magazine publisher James Dimonekas, have
held presentations for potential new advertisers. ``We are getting new
doors open,'' Kaminsky said.

Copyright 2003 Reuters Ltd.