The New Yorker/Hef Rex

Donna Tavoso
Tue, 13 May 2003 22:36:25 -0500 (EST)

In my opinion The New Yorker is not really a great comparison or a
success story that Playboy would want to follow.  First of all they
have had at least four, maybe more, editors since the founder, not
surprising they were founded in the early 20's I believe.  However,
more importantly they have huge trouble maintaining their rate base
and ad revenue.  Second of all while the New Yorker is a great
magazine, it's not a lifestyle and what makes Playboy unique is that
it is both a magazine and a lifestyle.

For me a better example is Cosmopolitan and Helen Gruly Brown.
Similar to Hef, she launched a lifestyle with her magazine and her
personality became intertwined with it.  She was Cosmo and when she
announced that she was retiring no one thought she could be replaced
-- but a new editor came in and found a way to keep the voice of Cosmo
alive and relevant.  In fact the magazine is doing better than ever
and even launched a spin off that is also thriving.  However, there is
a difference here as well, Cosmo similar to Maxim constantly turns
over it's readership base.  In effect, you outgrow the magazine and
are replaced by new readers who grow into it.

This is the true problem that confronts Playboy, few other magazines
have subscribers that they maintain for such a long duration (Sports
Illustrated is one), but make no mistake, Playboy is also reliant on
gaining new subscribers and must show newsstand growth in order to
generate the ad revnue that is crucial to any magazine's success.

It's a very challenging problem and solving it is going to involve
changes that many long term readers won't like, hopefully it will also
involve changes they do.  Everyone that writes here talks about how
they connected to the magazine in their youth, that is Jim Kaminsky's
challenge -- one he was given by Hef (be mad at Jim about the PMOY
cover, but do you think he did it without Hef's approval) to find a
way to use the formula that Hef created and evolve it in a way that
connects with the younger market -- all with out alienating the core
reader.  When you think about it, it's a pretty daunting challenge and
a tough balancing act, which will be filled with successes and

There will never be another Hef and I don't think Jim Kaminsky has any
desire to be him, what he does have a desire for is to ensure that
Playboy the magazine continues to grow and thrive -- my bet is that is
what Hef wants as well.