Playboy recently announced it had appointed digital and virtual reality corporate superstar Julie Uhrman to the newly created executive position of President of Media. This news comes on the heels of founder Hugh Hefner’s passing almost a year ago and the subsequent restructuring of the company with Hefner’s son, Cooper Hefner, holding the position of Playboy’s Chief Executive Officer.
Though Uhrman’s appointment may look like a targeted effort to regain a relevant edge in a world of digital domination, print publications may actually reach more — not fewer — customers in today’s diversified marketplace.
Playboy’s Naked Identity Crisis
Soon after the death of Hugh Hefner, Playboy began formulating ways to boost revenue loss by reinstating nude images to its print publication, which were taken off the table in October of 2015 in a failed effort to increase advertising and newsstand placement.
Cooper Hefner stated in a 2017 Twitter post mentioned in The New York Times that “the way in which the magazine portrayed nudity was dated, but removing it entirely was a mistake.” He also acknowledged that “nudity was never the problem because nudity isn’t a problem” and claimed that the reinstatement of nudes was merely the magazine giant reclaiming their identity.
Earlier this year, Ben Kohn, Chief Executive Officer of Playboy Enterprises, made it known that the company was considering ending its printed version entirely, but ultimately decided to continue publishing the magazine and instead scale back to a quarterly run schedule next year.
— Cooper Hefner (@cooperhefner) February 13, 2017
Analog Mags in a World of Digital Domination: Reach More, not Fewer, Customers
With new and digitally savvy blood coursing through Playboy’s veins, the publication is changing once again, this time into digital, virtual reality and gaming platforms. Uhrman’s mission is to meet the demands of current subscribers, while at the same time expanding the company’s presence in the digital world. With her extensive previous experience spearheading the digital distribution and virtual presence of companies such as Lionsgate and Jaunt Inc., this mission is more than possible.
Magazine conglomerates such as Playboy are one of many struggling with the age of digital domination and attempting to rework iconic print publications to become synergistic with readers demands. According to data from Stastista.com, however, this may not be completely necessary.
Although magazine sales have dropped from around 103 million in 2014 to 75 million at the end of 2016, the actual number of magazine readers in the U.S. has increased slightly. While some magazines have a strong digital presence, most advertising dollars are spent on printed pages. At the end of 2018, print advertisement spending is expected to equal $15.23 billion, while advertising in the digital realm will stand at $4.34 billion, signifying that the commonly expressed adage that “print is dead” is most likely based on opinion alone.
Diversifying is the key to any business, but especially in an enterprise based on visual entertainment. In general, adult entertainment publications are geared toward men, who — according to science — are sexually aroused via visual stimulation more so than women. For instance, according to a study by the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience, “The emotion control center of the brain, the amygdala, shows significantly higher levels of activation in males viewing sexual visual stimuli than females viewing the same images.”
For those in the adult entertainment industry, maximizing exposure on all platforms is key to generating a following that stands the test of time, as all visuals — still images, video or otherwise — are critical aspects of this business.
Uhrman plans on doing just that with the implementation of virtual reality and augmented reality venues, as well as creating gaming-based products with the hope of strengthening the brand in the print and digital space. This game plan will add to the magazine’s Playboy-themed projects, subscription websites and adult pay-per-view channels currently in existence.
If Uhrman is successful in this new venture, it will create a template for all other adult entertainment print publications to follow and a road-map in which these companies can use to navigate this new digitally dominated world well into the future.