Larry Flynt thinks Playboy's nude-free move is 'ludicrous'

Playboy says goodbye to nude photos
Playboy says goodbye to nude photos

Larry Flynt, the founder and publisher of Hustler magazine, thinks Playboy is making a big mistake by doing away with fully nude photos.

"Taking nudes out of the magazine," Flynt said, "is just going to contribute to the attrition of the magazine."

In an interview with CNNMoney, Flynt called Playboy's surprising decision "ludicrous," arguing that the magazine is unwisely stripping away its defining identity.

Flynt, 72, shares the assumption of mothers, wives and girlfriends everywhere: Nobody reads Playboy for the articles.

"What made Playboy popular to begin with?" Flynt said. "It wasn't the interviews. It wasn't the editorial content. It was the centerfold. They're taking out the main event. It just doesn't make sense."

Flynt can't imagine enacting the same policy at Hustler, the pornographic magazine he founded in 1974.

Most of his income comes from Hustler's television properties. But he said the magazine, despite having a "very small circulation" of about 100,000, "still makes money." And removing nudes might jeopardize that.

Related: Why Playboy is giving up nude photos

"I will do anything that makes sense business-wise because I'm a businessman," Flynt said. "But that makes no sense business-wise. That's the one thing they buy the magazine for. It defies logic for me."

Still, Flynt empathizes with Playboy's financial challenges.

Like Playboy, Hustler has been hurt by the widespread availability of online porn. And eliminating nude photos could, in theory, make Playboy more palatable to certain advertisers who were squeamish about doing business with a porn magazine.

"I think they're losing money and it's a sign of desperation," Flynt said. "There were a lot of advertisers that Playboy could never get because they had nudity. They take the nudity out and they think they're going to get more advertisers. But you take the nudity out, you lose the demographic and you can't get advertisers. So it's a bad business decision."

Gold Playboy bunny

Playboy, which has seen its circulation dip from more than 5 million in the 1970s to about 800,000 today, acknowledged that the internet was a factor in its decision to go nude-free. But the magazine had other motivations.

Scott Flanders, Playboy's CEO, told the New York Times that the magazine is positioning itself to compete with outlets such as Vice. And according to Flanders, Playboy will cater to a more affluent crop of young men.

"The difference between us and Vice," Flanders said, "is that we're going after the guy with a job."

Once again, Flynt views this as a mistake.

"That's the wrong approach," he said. "You have to have broad demographic appeal if you're going to publish a magazine. They don't have the truck drivers. They have the college professors. They're narrowing their demographic. You need a broad demographic to get a maximum circulation."

Flynt wasn't entirely critical of Playboy. He said the magazine's interviews are "good and important," and he called Playboy's founder and editor-in-chief Hugh Hefner "a very nice man."

"He paved the way for the so-called sexual revolution," Flynt said of Hefner. "I think he'll be remembered for that, but not so much for his business acumen."

Will Flynt still regard Playboy a competitor, even when it drops nudes?

"I don't think they were ever a competitor," Flynt said. "My only competitor is 'Gynecological Monthly.'"

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