The future of Playboy magazine as a print product is now uncertain following the death of founder Hugh Hefner. OK so Hef wasn’t involved in the day to day business of the magazine if it all. But he was still listed as Editor thanks a to an agreement reached with Rizvi Traverse, the company that in 2011 bought a controlling stake in Playboy Enterprises for $207 million. The agreement stated that Rizvi would continue to publish the print magazine as long as Hugh Hefner was alive. Well, Hef passed away of natural causes on Wednesday which immediately brought about the question of when will Playboy stop publishing a print edition. Though some would like to see Playboy officially handed off to Hefner’s 26 year old son Cooper who currently serves as Chief Creative Officer, Rizvi partner Ben Kohn is said to see more value in the licensing side of the Playboy brand is said to have no interest in being in the media business. Under former CEO Scott Flanders, Playboy attempted to shift to a more broader lifestyle brand for men eliminating nudes in a bid to attract more high end advertisers. But the change only boosted newsstand and nothing else as advertisers bailed. Cooper Hefner was against the decision from day one and once Flanders was out and Cooper came in as CCO, he quickly shifted the magazine back to its original business of nude women.
Briefly, the new strategy seemed to work — then the bottom dropped out. Advertisers who tried it briefly did not re-up, subscribers dropped off, and newsstand sales, while up double digits, were still only a tiny slice of its overall circulation. Younger readers were attracted but not in large enough numbers to off-set the angry older subscribers who dropped their subscriptions.
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