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Playboy Enterprises has outlived the founder of its iconic magazine, though largely as a shadow of its former self.
Hugh Hefner Playboy, a magazine founded to celebrate his Philosophy of sexual freedom, influenced sexual mores and popular culture for decades. A business empire grew out of that, but it shrunk considerably over the years. It now lives on primarily as a set of bunny ears slapped on products around the world.
The magazine itself, whose circulation peaked in the 1970s at 7 million, is now seen as more of a marketing tool that supports the licensing operations at the heart of the modern company.
magazine is sort of the tiny part of the equation now, said Samir Husni, director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi.
Playboy, born in 1953, is still putting out print issues. But today its circulation has fallen below 500,000, according to industry tracker the Alliance for Audited Media.
The free for all of internet publishing that has squeezed the newspaper and magazine industries has done likewise for Hefner brainchild. Pornography for just about any taste or flavour is now available for free online.
For those who read Playboy for the articles well, there no shortage of compelling journalism spread across the internet and available in your Facebook newsfeed.
In 2011, as Hefner and private equity firm Rizvi Traverse Management arranged to take Playboy private, then CEO Scott Flanders highlighted its transition to a management company. It sold its adult TV and digital operations to an internet porn company. Then in October 2015 it declared that the magazine would no longer publish the nude photos it was famous for.
Media reports from spring 2016 said that Playboy was looking to sell itself for $500 million, more than double the price paid in 2011. Private equity firms typically acquire troubled companies, then try to slash costs, improve profitability and resell them for a higher price.
Playboy didn end up selling itself, but made a string of changes anyway. Flanders left, and the CEO now is Ben Kohn, a managing partner at Rizvi Traverse, Playboy majority owner.
Hefner son Cooper, then 24, was brought in as chief creative officer in July 2016. Then the company sold the Playboy Mansion for $100 million to next door neighbour Daren Metropoulos, owner of Hostess (maker of Twinkies,
Ho Hos and Ding Dongs).
The magazine reversed itself on its no nudes policy earlier this year , saying nudity was part of its identity.
Playboy Enterprises today pulls in most of its revenue from licensing its brand its name and those instantly recognizable bunny ears in a bow tie for everything from perfume bottles to men shoes. The biggest market is Asia, and Playboy says it has been particularly successful in China.
isn just the magazine the brand has evolved to become a brand with a luxurious, smart, and cultured image, Karina Masolova, executive editor of the trade publication The Licensing Letter, said in an email. branded merchandise is always going to sell (at least decently well) in the mature American and European markets. and western Europe, Asia is a bright spot where Playboy is cultivating a premium image in men fashion.
The magazine also has an international presence with 25 foreign editions, with Germany the largest, and owns a subscription adult entertainment channel, Playboy TV, available in more than 60 countries. A string of Playboy Clubs still dot the world; one is even opening in New York later this year , complete with Bunnies, more than three decades after the original New York club closed.
Still, as a private company, Playboy finances are opaque. In its last year as a publicly traded company, revenue fell 10.5 per cent to $215 million in 2010, and it had posted three years of annual losses. Its finances then point toward Playboy direction today: licensing fees weren the biggest revenue source, but they accounted for nearly all the profit.
Some think it is too late for a Playboy resurgence, and say the brand will never approach the prominence and influence it once had. times have passed Playboy, Husni said. a customer base, without consumers, there is no magazine. With no magazine, there no brand.