Playboy Looking for a New PlayPen in the iPad

There’s no doubt Playboy is an American institution. For years, young men (and women too) have fawned over the nude magazine each month, especially when it features celebrities such as Kim Kardashian inside the glossy (and sometimes sticky) pages. However, with nudity being so readily available online, the need for Playboy has become almost nonexistent.

As a result, Hugh Hefner announced via Twitter that Playboy will be coming to the iPad in March with full frontal nudity, all current issues, and even all back issues.

The first thing I was curious about was how this was at all possible. Steve Jobs has been adamant about keeping porn away from Apple. In some ways, his desire can be a good thing; it keeps the Apple brand name wholesome and accessible to all consumers.

So how is Playboy going to go full frontal on the iPad? The solution: the app is web-based. In order to see the actual content of the magazine, users will open the iPad’s web browser and view it that way. Since the nudity won’t be shown within the application itself, Playboy doesn’t need to go through the same Apple application review process. Think of it this way: Apple may not let you see boobs in an application, but they can’t control what nudie websites you surf with the browser.

But will any of this actually save the business? Playboy has been struggling to stay afloat. Subscriptions to the magazine have been declining with a 7% revenue drop in 2010 to $52.1 million. In fact, Hefner’s daughter, Christie, walked away from being CEO of the company in 2008 and left the empire to current CEO, Scott Flanders. After struggling with magazine subscriptions and falling stock prices, it was time for someone else to take the reigns.

Most recently, Hefner himself was bought out by Playboy Enterprises for his majority share (70%) in the company. Hefner saw this as positive saying, “I believe this agreement will give us the resources and flexibility to return Playboy to its unique position and to further expand our business around the world.”

One important thing to understand is that even though the business is struggling, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the brand is. In any country, you could show off the iconic bunny silhouette and everyone knows who you’re talking about. The Playboy brand is just as well known as ever, thanks in part to E!’s Girls Next Door, the Playboy Club and Playboy merchandise (because if you need to dress like a ho, you know where to go). Keep in mind that the brand can’t survive without the business. If the business fails, no matter how strong the brand image is, the entire company will fail.

Even though bringing Playboy to the iPad sounds like a great idea, the bottom line is the e-readers won’t be able to save magazine publishing, including Playboy. Even though it’s a great and innovative new way to attract readers with high tech devices, that can’t be the only solution. iPad magazine sales slumped after the introduction of the gadget in April 2010 and they don’t seem to be looking any better. If you can see Ke$ha’s boobs online for free, what’s the point of paying for a subscription?

What are your thoughts on the Playboy iPad app? Would you buy it?

McKenzie Lawton McKenzie Lawton is a junior Marketing Communications major at Emerson College. She loves social media and all things pop-culture. McKenzie currently sells lotion at The Body Shop, and interns at the Museum of Science. She grew up in southeastern Massachusetts and has a deep love for the city of Boston. She spends most of her free time watching television. And no, she is not named after Mackenzie Phillips. Twitter: @mckenzielawton

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