Playboy Magazine, which blazed a path for the sexual revolution, is shutting down its print publication—and it’s blaming coronavirus as part of the reason.
While a general slowdown in print magazine sales is the primary reason, the company said content production and supply chain issues surrounding the pandemic sped up the decision. Playboy will transition to a digital-only product after the next issue, though it does plan to produce print one-off publications in 2021.
“Last week, as the disruption of the coronavirus pandemic to content production and the supply chain became clearer and clearer, we were forced to accelerate a conversation we’ve been having internally,” said Ben Kohn, CEO of Playboy Enterprises, in a Medium post. “With all of this in mind, we have decided that our Spring 2020 Issue, which arrives on U.S. newsstands and as a digital download this week, will be our final printed publication.”
Playboy published its first magazine in 1953, immediately capturing people’s attention with nude photos of Marilyn Monroe. At its peak, in the early 1970s, it sold more than 7 million copies in a single month.
But the rise of the internet and competitors who did not hesitate to print much more graphic pictures took a toll on the company. Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, who died in 2017, sold the company to a private equity firm in 2011 and transferred ownership of the iconic Playboy Mansion. He died with very little money to his name. His family sold their remaining shares in the company in 2018. The magazine went quarterly at the beginning of 2019.
The company’s biggest asset these days is its trademark. The well-known bunny logo is available on a wide range of consumer goods, and it’s lucrative. Kohn said Playboy drives “over $3 billion in annual consumer spend worldwide.”
The company has been growing its social media presence and digital video subscriptions are up 30% year over year.
“Over the past 66 years, we’ve become far more than a magazine,” said Kohn. “And sometimes you have to let go of the past to make room for the future. So we’re turning our attention to achieving our mission in the most effective and impactful way we can: to help create a culture where all people can pursue pleasure.”
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