LOS ANGELES (AP) – Playboy is about to find out how many people really do read it for the articles.
The magazine that helped usher in the sexual revolution in the 1950s and ’60s by bringing nudity into America’s living rooms – or at least its sock drawers – announced this week that it will no longer run photos of completely naked women.
Playboy has seen its circulation plunge in recent decades as it has fallen victim to some of the very forces it helped set in motion. First it had to deal with competition from more sexually explicit magazines like Penthouse and Hustler. Now the Internet is awash in high-definition porn.
Playboy has decided that the answer is less skin, not more.
“You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. And so it’s just passé at this juncture,” Playboy Enterprises CEO Scott Flanders told The New York Times.
Starting in March, Playboy’s print edition will still feature women in provocative poses, but they will no longer be fully nude. It will become more like Esquire and other magazines with PG-13-type pictures.
The Times said the magazine has not decided whether to continue having a centerfold.
Playboy became famous for publishing naked photos of some of the world’s most famous women. Marilyn Monroe was its first centerfold, 62 years ago.
Although the change represents a major shift for the magazine, it is also the latest step away from full nudity, which was banned from Playboy’s website in August 2014. That helped make the site safer for work and public places, and enabled Playboy to get onto Facebook, Twitter and other platforms.
The magazine has said its online audience soared with that move, averaging a fourfold increase in monthly unique visitors.
The Times said taking full nudity out of the magazine was also something the 89-year-old Playboy founder Hugh Hefner signed off on when editor Cory Jones ran the idea by him.
“The political and sexual climate of 1953, the year Hugh Hefner introduced Playboy to the world, bears almost no resemblance to today,” Flanders said in a statement. “We are more free to express ourselves politically, sexually and culturally today, and that’s in large part thanks to Hef’s heroic mission to expand those freedoms.”
The shift will be accompanied by other changes in the magazine, including a slightly larger size and heavier, higher-quality paper meant to give the magazine a more collectible feel.
Playboy’s print circulation, measured at 5.6 million in the 1975, is now about 800,000, according to Alliance for Audited Media, the Times reported.