Playboy is in a tight spot. It operates in two volatile worlds: the magazine (and media) industry; and branded adult entertainment.
As a magazine, it has seen advertising disappear – down about 30 percent, or roughly $22 million, in 2009. As an adult entertainment brand, it’s had better success financially, with a lucrative, global licensing business. But its Web site still has that sticky NSFW stigma. Plus, it’s paid – and like the news business, the nudie business competes online with a waterfall of sites offering the same thing – and more – for free.
On Thursday, during a conference call with investors, the company said it plans to launch a “free, safe-for-work” Web site – dubbed TheSmokingJacket.com, no doubt a nod to founder Hugh Hefner – targeting men (Congressmen?) who would be more inclined to access Maxim-like content daily, and advertisers who wouldn’t think of associating their brands with pinups. Executives said the site would also have a subscription component.
Meanwhile, Playboy managed to cut its quarterly loss to about $1 million, compared to $13.7 million last year. It’s print and digital business – the part we’re talking about here – posted a loss of $1 million, compared to $3.6 million last year. The improved performance was attributed to the deep cost-cutting instituted by newish CEO Scott Flanders.
The company’s overall revenues declined 10.8 percent.