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Save the Centerfold  or Why We as Americans Owe it to Playboy

As a long-time subscriber (annual Valentine’s Day gift for my husband I began many year’s ago) the news of Playboy’s dismal Q1 financial results saddened me.  Here is an American icon, like no other, that is on the verge of vanishing from mailboxes and bathroom’s everywhere.  Here is why we owe it to them and how we can help.

Playboy as Americana

Hef launched his first issue in 1953 with Marilyn Monroe on its cover.  Since then hundreds of celebs have graced its cover, pages, and interviews.  Actresses such as Farrah Fawcett, Drew Barrymore, Linda Evans, and Shannen Dougherty have posed to perhaps extend or reignite their careers.  Musicians posing silently on the pages range from  Nancy Sinatra to Debbie Gibson.  Even athletes along the lines of Amanda Beard and Katarina Witt have shed their sports gear for Hef.  And who can forget all the pop-culture-tarts to have their day in the Playboy sun:  Darva Conger, Chyna, Kim Kardashian, and Cindy Margolis (For the record, I had never heard of Cindy until I read her story in Playboy – yes I read the articles!).  And would we know the name Anna Nicole Smith if it weren’t for Playboy?

Beyond the gorgeous women who pose in Playboy there are many other iconic features:  the artwork, the literature, and the interviews

Art: Beyond the Photographs

Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of visiting the Chicago HQ offices of Playboy, will recall the amazing art gallery that routinely rotates 4500+ pieces of original art .  Playboy owns one of the largest private collections of modern art in the world.  The collection includes work by Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, LeRoy Nieman, and Patrick Nagel…many of which were commissioned for Playboy.  Even Playboy’s own cartoonist, Alberto Vargas, has celebrity status within the art world thanks to Playboy.

Literature:  Someone Must Be Reading the Articles

Many writers over the years have blessed the pages of Playboy with their words including P.J. O’Rourke, Arthur C. Clarke, Ian Fleming, Ray Bradbury, and Shel Silverstein (Yes, the children’s author and poet!).  And what about the joke writers?  Those Playboy Party Jokes have come in handy over the years.

Interviews:  Hef’s Not So Shallow After All

Playboy’s 20Q may only have been around since the late 70’s (Cheryl Tiegs was the first if you were wondering) but Playboy has been publishing the interviews of some of the most brilliant Americans since the 1960’s.  Some historic interviews include Miles Davis, Martin Luther King Jr, Malcom X, John Lennon (all right so he wasn’t an American), and Jimmy Carter.

The Plan

Interim CEO Jerome Kern announced on their May 11th investor call  that they will consider instituting price increases, a reduced number of issues, and a reduction in the total number of magazines printed to counteract plunging revenues and profits.   This precarious financial situation and meek plan for survival disturb me for 4 reasons:

  1. Fewer issues:  The monthly gentlemen’s magazine will no longer arrive on a 30 day schedule to your mailbox or newstand.  Instead of looking forward to seeing Miss October you will anticipate Miss Q4
  2. Already the issues are printed on thinner paper and are 50 pagers shorter on average.  With this change alone, are they worth the paper they are printed on?  Will they last as long?  My husband still has the Darva Conger issue and it’s in great shape!  I can’t even remember why she was famous for 15 minutes.
  3. If Playboy magazine as we know it goes away, how will future generations come of age?  Will I worry when my sons bring their Kindle or laptop into the bathroom?  Should I be more worried about electrocution?
  4. The prudes of the world may finally win by joining  forces with the environmentalists to abolish Playboy with a “Print Smut/Kill Trees” campaign.

How You Can Give Back to Playboy

  • Pick up a copy on your newstand or subscribe
  • If you can’t afford the $5.99 current (and about to go up!) cover price pick up a share from your broker.  The stock floats around $3.21 share these days.
  • Tweet @Playboy with your ideas for content and cashflow

How will you pay back Playboy and save the centerfold?