This move is neither surprising nor particularly outrageous. Magazines in their current form – print and online – have been failing at an alarming rate. Even Europe, where print is still king, is seeing a glossy slowdown. The answer? Online. And the big two – Google and Apple – don’t like nudity.
And that’s just fine.
Playboy cannot exist as an entity in the current climate. No one under 30 would buy it in print. Sure you can hop over to iPlayboy and pay to read every issue since Hef first donned a smoking jacket, but web apps are not a way to scale. When was the last time you paid for smut? I have a better chance of stumbling on a stack of old Playboys in a garage than finding a way to read them on my iPad.
In the end, Playboy crashed against two immovable barriers. First, the Internet made porn commonplace and Playboy’s brand of erotica or “pictorials” as tame as a church pot luck. Second, none of the major carriers of online content allow porn to be sold through their stores. The Disneyfication of online markets is to be expected – nearly every content provider has come down hard on the side of non-prurience except, notably, Reddit – and when there’s money to be made in the Newsstand app (but not the physical newsstand) it makes perfect sense for magazines like Playboy to change.
In the end Playboy was struck down by changes in societal norms. The company is now betting on content to drive sales – a bold decision – and knows that humans can see other humans naked nearly all the time these days. It’s now selling quality writing, a prospect that the writer in me applauds but the ironist in me finds endlessly amusing. Finally, in the end, Playboy will only be read for the articles.