To promote its new creator platform called “Playboy,” the company is relaunching its iconic magazine online.
PLBY Group, the current owner of Playboy, is reviving the iconic magazine in a digital-only format with a twist: the magazine serves as a virtual display window for an OnlyFans-style platform named Playboy. The platform will offer both free and paid content, with select content available for free and users required to pay individual creators for full photo shoots and behind-the-scenes content. Although the first issue of the new Playboy will be released at the end of this year, some of its initial photos featuring model Amanda Cerny are already viewable on Playboy’s website.
While the Playboy platform’s business model is similar to that of OnlyFans, it differs in that Playboy allows nudity but not hardcore pornography. The company spokesperson clarified that while nudity is permitted, explicit content or pornography is not. In contrast to an “adult” platform, Playboy’s platform is intended for everyone, including mainstream creators who wish to share behind-the-scenes glimpses of their lives.
Playboy’s platform also differs from OnlyFans in that it does not directly allow amateur models on its platform. To post on the site, models must submit an application and be accepted by the company.
From Bunnies to Bits: A Look at the Playboy Magazine’s Past
To fully understand why Playboy is using its iconic magazine to promote its new creator platform, it’s important to delve into the magazine’s recent history. In 2011, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner sold Playboy Enterprises to Rizvi Traverse, marking the beginning of a three-pronged battle for the magazine.
The first challenge was separating itself from its shady past and history of discrimination against women. The second challenge was finding a market on the internet where naked pictures are readily available for free. And finally, Playboy had to find a balance between allowing full nudity in its magazine and not hurting its product licensing business in markets that ban such content.
In 2015, Playboy removed nudes from its magazine covers. The then CEO of the company, Scott Flanders, claimed that the decision was based on the fact that easy access to free pornography made nudity “passé.” However, Quartz saw it differently, pointing out that the move was an attempt to appeal to more politically correct markets like China and India, which were major revenue sources for the company.
Following Hefner’s death in 2017, Playboy Enterprises decided to cease production of the print version of the magazine in 2020. The print version had been in decline since 2018, partly due to the general crisis facing print magazines. Playboy, which reached a circulation of 5.6 million copies of an issue in the U.S. at its peak in 1975, had dwindled to less than 500,000 copies per issue by 2018.
In March 2020, the CEO of Playboy Enterprises, Ben Kohn, announced that the spring issue of the magazine would be its last in print. Although Kohn cited distribution problems caused by the Covid-19 pandemic as the official reason for the decision, it was clear that the print version had been on the decline for some time.
A year after Kohn announced the end of Playboy Magazine’s print version, he revealed the formation of PLBY Group, resulting from a merger between Rizvi Traverse and Mountain Crest Acquisition Corp. The company focuses on three key business areas: content licensing to third parties, direct-to-consumer product sales, and digital content. Even before this merger, Playboy was already selling subscriptions for nude content on its website. In May 2022, PLBY Group hired former Twitch executive Loren Piretra to launch a subscription platform, Centerfold by Playboy. However, in September, the company decided to rebrand the platform and integrate it with the original brand, calling it simply “Playboy.”
Does Playboy still have hame in today’s digital world?
The question of whether there’s still room for Playboy in today’s world isn’t about nude photos, but rather about its business model.
Playboy aims to create an “elevated, safe, and exclusive” version of OnlyFans that combines elements of Instagram, TikTok, and OnlyFans.
The catch is that social media is already brimming with talented artists whose content is accessible for free or via direct payments through platforms like Patreon, Ko-Fi, or Twitter’s own monetization features. Playboy’s challenge is to differentiate itself in a crowded market and convince people to pay for its professionally produced content without ads.