Long before the rise and fall of the UK’s lad magazine, Playboy, which published its first issue in 1953, invented the strange publishing category of the men’s entertainment magazine. Though it featured a centrefold of Marilyn Monroe, which would largely set the ensuing tone of its cultural cachet, the magazine would go on to publish serious (and expensive) journalism, as well as fiction from some of the most prominent post-war writers and poets in the Anglophone world.
Yet the magazine never quite managed to adapt to the changing cultural landscape – despite the perpetual question of whether its stance was sexually liberating or just leering – as well as tectonic shifts in the publishing industry.
Now, in an attempt to reboot, the magazine is aiming to broaden its appeal. In an article from the New York Times, the publication’s younger, more diverse team talk about where the title will go next. For instance, executive editor, Shane Singh tells the paper about a recent underwater cover shoot in which three female activists converge in a ballet-like pose. “The water is meant to represent gender and sexual fluidity,” Singh says.
This is far from the traditional image of the magazine, as a younger, millennial editorial team are trying to reframe the magazine just as it attempts a new business model. Such a change follows several strategic punts: reductions in publishing frequency, getting rid of ads in its new premium quarterly, and – for a short period – banning nudity.
In early 2018, its recently appointed CEO Ben Kohn said the company would start pivoting away from editorial in order to focus on licensing, especially in new territories such as China in which the magazine had never existed, and where the company instead made its money selling branded merchandise, running nightclubs and casinos. But by September of that year, Playboy had once more changed course, deciding that it would put together a quarterly print run followed by an online media presence that would run “progressive provocative content”.
That progressiveness is bolstered by a new executive editorial trio, the oldest of which – Singh – is 31. For the first time it also has two women serving concurrently in top jobs. Erica Loewy, 26, is creative director, while multimedia and photography is the domain of Anna Wilson, 29. As a result, the editorial vision now includes terms such as “intersectionality” and “sex positivity”.
“We talk a lot about what’s the Playboy gaze and how we need to diversify that,” explains CMO Rachel Webber. “It’s who is behind the camera as much as in front of it.”
Sourced from the New York Times, WARC