Playboy to eliminate nude photos from the magazine

Playboy's comeback strategy: Less skin

Soon "I read it for the articles" will be more believable.

The iconic men's magazine Playboy says it is planning to drop fully nude female photography from its pages.

In a letter to readers, the magazine predicted that everyone would be asking why, so it answered, "Playboy has been a friend to nudity, and nudity has been a friend to Playboy, for decades. The short answer is: times change."

Like so many other magazines, Playboy is reacting to the Internet revolution. In Playboy's case, it is about the ubiquity of online pornography.

"You're now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. It's just passé at this juncture," Playboy's chief executive Scott Flanders told The New York Times, which first reported the news on Monday night.

His comments sent shock waves through the magazine industry. Playboy, founded by Hugh Hefner, has been a controversial part of American popular culture since its debut in 1953.

"Yes, we're taking a risk by going non-nude," the magazine said, "but this is a company—like all great companies—that has risk in its DNA."

Playboy has a circulation of around 800,000 -- way down from its pre-Internet glory days when it boasted a circulation of many millions.

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Related: Why is Playboy giving up nudity?

By covering up the nude photos, the magazine hopes to appeal to a broader and younger audience both in print and online.

The change will take effect in February when Playboy publishes its March issue.

But the magazine will continue to show women in what it calls provocative poses -- like Maxim, Esquire, GQ and other publications.

Another competitor is Vice, an outlet that began as a print magazine and has evolved into a multimedia juggernaut valued at more than $2 billion. Both Playboy and Vice target young men living in urban areas. "The difference between us and Vice," Flanders told the Times, "is that we're going after the guy with a job."

Samir Husni, the director of Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi, said that the magazine's attempts at a younger audience may alienate the magazine's long-time subscriber base.

"They want the young college male, but that young college male doesn't need playboy," Husni said. "With this announcement they may have lost the audience they had and may never get the audience they want."

After the announcement on Monday night, commenters on social media pointed out that the removal of nude photos may boost the magazine's articles.

"The Playboy Interview has long been one of the greatest columns in the magazine world," Politico media reporter Alex Weprin tweeted. "In some ways the rest of the magazine held it back."

Husni added that Playboy was "the original man's magazine that serviced men through advice and helpful information" while also dealing with the nude photography.

"In the past, it went through the hoops of the nude photos to offer help to men in all aspects of life," Husni said. "But now, Playboy has lost its identity and is in many ways frozen in time."

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