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Is there still room for Playboy in today’s world? The current owner of the popular magazine, PLBY Group, is resurrecting the original magazine in a purely digital format, with one catch: this new Playboy is a virtual showcase for an OnlyFans-style platform, called Playboy, of course.
The company announced on Monday that it would be bringing back its iconic magazine with a mix of free and paid content. According to Variety, the new Playboy will offer select content for free, but users will have to pay individual creators for behind-the-scenes content and full photoshoots. The first issue of Playboy will be out later this year, but you can already see some of the first photos on the Playboy website, which feature model Amanda Cerny.
The Playboy platform’s business model is very similar to OnlyFans, although there are some differences, most notably that Playboy allows nude photos but not hardcore porn.
“Many of our creators don’t have nudity on their pages,” a Playboy spokesperson told Variety. “We do allow nudity but not explicit content/pornography… We’re not positioning this as an ‘adult’ platform – it’s for everyone, including mainstream creators, sharing behind the scenes of their lives.”
Unlike OnlyFans, Playboy does not allow amateur models directly on its platform. In order to post on the site, models must submit an application and be accepted by the company.
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The Story of Playboy Magazine
To understand exactly why Playboy (the company) decided to use its iconic magazine to promote its new creator platform, it’s important to understand the magazine’s recent history. In 2011, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner sold Playboy Enterprises to a company called Rizvi Traverse. Since then, the magazine has fought a three-pronged battle: breaking free from its shady origins and history of discrimination against women; finding a market on the internet where you can easily find nude pics totally free; and striking a balance between allowing full nudity on the pages of its magazine while not ruining its product licensing business in markets that don’t allow that type of content.
For example, in 2015, Playboy removed nudes from its covers. The company’s CEO at the time, Scott Flanders, explained the decision to the New York Times as follows: “You are now one click away from every free sex act imaginable. And so it’s just passé at this point,” Flanders told the outlet.
At the time, Quartz saw Playboy’s decision differently, noting that the company was trying to be “cleaner” and more politically correct in its print output to help its businesses in China and India. Considering Playboy made 40% of its sales in China at the time, it made sense.
Hefner died in 2017 and Playboy Enterprises decided to discontinue the print version of the magazine in 2020. There have been rumors of a discontinuation of the print magazine as of 2018, partly due to the general crisis print magazines are going through. Playboy began publishing in 1953 and peaked in 1975 when it printed 5.6 million copies of one issue in the United States. By 2018, its circulation had dwindled to fewer than 500,000 copies per issue.
In March 2020, Playboy Enterprises CEO Ben Kohn announced that the spring issue of the magazine would be the last to print. Kohn cited the distribution problems caused by the Covid-19 pandemic as the official rationale for this decision, but it’s clear that the print version of the magazine has been on its way to the chopping block for some time.
A year later, Kohn announced that Rizvi Traverse would merge with Mountain Crest Acquisition Corp to form PLBY Group, a company with three main businesses: licensing content to third parties, selling direct-to-consumer products, and digital content. At the time, Playboy was already selling subscriptions to nude content on its website. In May 2022, Loren Piretra, ex-Twitch manager, hired to launch Centerfold by Playboy, a subscription platform similar to OnlyFans with its own app.
Back in September, PLBY Group scrapped the Centerfold name and integrated their creator platform with the original brand, deciding to simply call it Playboy.
Is there still room for Playboy in today’s world?
The question has nothing to do with nude photos – which we should already be used to at this point on the internet – but with his business model.
Playboy defines its platform as an “elevated, safe and exclusive” version of OnlyFans. In practice, Playboy proposes a mix of Instagram, TikTok and OnlyFans, but with content produced by professionals and sold through a subscription, without advertising. The problem is that Instagram, TikTok and Twitter are already full of very talented artists whose content you can access without paying anything or by directly monetizing the artists through monetization platforms like Patreon, Ko-Fi or Twitter’s own monetization features pay.