We reported last year on the death of the men’s mag, as the increasing availability of internet pornography and the markedly different consumption habits of millennial men transformed online lad culture into something new entirely. Playboy is the latest to join the ranks of rags which are changing their approach, and their image, in order to tailor to digital natives.
The bunny-eared institution has announced it will no longer publish photographs of explicitly naked women, starting with its upcoming March 2016 issue (although there are ‘artfully’ concealed nudes, including centrefold Dree Hemingway). Additionally, models in the new issue have not been digitally retouched. Instead, the images have been shot starkly, in “the unadorned, point-and-shoot aesthetic made famous by the American Apparel ads and fashion photographers like Terry Richardson,” writes The New York Times’ David Segal.
This image overhaul is designed to attract a younger audience, a generation for whom XXX content has only ever been a single click away. Hence the Snapchat-inspired cover for the March issue; it still has an intimate, flirtatious quality, and it apes a platform which has a predominantly young, male user base.
“A year and a half ago, we relaunched Playboy.com as a safe-for-work site, and traffic skyrocketed 400 per cent,” says Cory Jones, Playboy’s Chief Content Officer. “The average age of our visitors dropped from 47 years old to 30. It showed how the brand can still resonate.”
It’s an old joke that Playboy publishes decent articles which many buyers never actually read. And moving forward, there will be a continued focus on high quality written content; the new issue includes a long-form essay by memoirist Karl Ove Knausgaard and an interview with journalist Rachel Maddow.
“Paradoxical as it may sound,” says Segal, “Playboy has undergone major cosmetic surgery and emerged from the operating room looking more natural.”