Playboy Should Lose the Naked Ladies

Playboy is among the many periodicals making job and budget cuts this year:

Playboy Enterprises Inc. disclosed in a Wednesday regulatory filing that upcoming cost-cutting measures will include eliminating 55 jobs at the Chicago publishing and entertainment concern.

In the Securities and Exchange Commission document, Playboy said that a plan to reduce annual costs by $10 million is being increased to $12 million “in light of current economic and media conditions.”

In fairness, there’s more to Playboy than a magazine, but the news got me thinking about the 55-year-old periodical. I don’t know that it’s in any serious trouble. According to Wikipedia, it’s got a circulation of 3 million, down from a high of 7.1 million in 1972. That’s still better than, say, Maxim (2.5 million), Esquire (700,000) or Details (500,000).

But let’s imagine that the magazine is struggling. I got to thinking about what radical action I’d undertake to right the ship. The first thing that occurred to me: get rid of the naked women.

“But,” says the VP of Marketing, “the naked women are our brand! They’re what differentiates us from Maxim et al!”

Nay, I say. Nudity stopped being a differentiator some time in the mid-nineties, when the web became a den of inequity and rife with porn. As any web surfer knows, there’s all forms of nudity to be found for free on the web, from the gentlest erotica to the weirdest fetish. The same is true for periodicals, obviously. There’s Hustler, obviously, but even mainstream magazines like Maxim are often exactly two exposed nipples away from precisely mimicking the images in Playboy.

So, I’m unconvinced that anybody really buys the magazine for the pictures anymore. They buy it for the fantastic essays, interviews and short fiction.

Personally, I’d feel still feel a little sheepish buying an issue of Playboy and a lot sheepish reading it on the bus. Maybe Playboy ought to drop the naked photos altogether, and focus on what really differentiates them from the herd?


  1. That’s a really interesting point — and you are dead right about Maxim, too.

    When I want to raise eyebrows and/or hackles, I often tell people that the UVic Library holdings include several reels of microfilmed copies of early Playboy issues. In all seriousness, they are available for the interviews and essays, many of which were ground-breaking for their era.

    I have only one question? What would become of their iconic bunny?

  2. I still remember my creepy 50-something 7th grade teacher telling me that I absolutely needed to get a copy of the April issue of Playboy. He said it had a fantastic article on something to do with computers. I forget what now, of course. But I was absolutely repulsed. To this day, I wonder what he was thinking. Telling a 12-year-old girl that he read a fantastic article in Playboy and that she should go buy a copy?! I suppose it was better than photocopying the article and cropping out the pics and handing it to me — that would have crossed the line, too. But, still, I wonder what on earth he was thinking.

    And so I got an English degree. Now if Playboy had really been just about the articles, perhaps I would have become a software engineer. Instead, I just married one.

    1. They could just excise the semi-naked ladies from the cover, making it more acceptable read on the bus.

      Of course, good as the articles are, the old analogy is that saying you read Playboy for the articles is like saying you go to strip clubs for the music.

  3. Sorry Darren, the typo “den of inequity” was so distractingly funny I completely missed the rest of the article.

    I shall from now on refer to the Internet that way.

  4. i just found about playboy this year i love playboy i just have one question who will be the iconic bunny

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