Playboy: The Decline of The Sex-is-Art Master Entrepreneur

A few weeks ago we debated if sex sells.  A simple enough question with what seemed in the end like a simple enough answer. Yet there is strong evidence to suggest that maybe the issue is not as clear-cut as was originally thought. In the 1st place, there is the theory that sex in business distracts from the subject at hand. In other words, the target audience may be more interested in the sex prop than in the underlying product or service.

Times have changed at Playboy

The publication long known for showcasing the female physique will no longer feature models in the nude. This is according to a report in The New York Times. The decision apparently rose from a meeting with Playboy Editor-in-Chief Hugh Hefner, amid discussions about a forthcoming update.

The Times’ Ravi Somaiya writes that now that Playboy has effectively accomplished its founding goal of normalizing the female body by introducing women to the world in their au naturel state, the magazine has accomplished its mission. Keep in mind that in the days before Playboy landed on magazine racks in the 1950s, female nudity was taboo.

Playboy CEO Scott Flanders told The Times: “That battle has been fought and won … you’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free.” Flanders is essentially saying that the internet has made the thrill of eyeballing naked women “old school” and that Playboy can no longer let that be its primary commodity.

Evidence of that can be found in a report by the Alliance for Audited Media, The Times notes, which says Playboy magazine’s 5.6 million circulation in 1975 has taken a staggering fall to just 800,000.

Playboy MagazineAP Photo/Joe Coomber

We prefer a cup of tea, and an evening by the telly, thank you very much

According to AAM’s magazine-circulation figures from 2014, the most popular magazine in circulation among the top 25 in the US was AARP the Magazine. AARP stands for “American Association of Retired Persons”. Its magazine had a total paid and verified circulation of 22.8 million as of 2014.

Interestingly, the second-most circulated magazine is another AARP publication. It boasted a circulation of 22.2 million in the same year. Perhaps most telling about the decline of the adult magazine is its disappearance from news stands. The Times notes that many have been relegated to “specialist stores” instead.

But Playboy’s biggest foes according to The Times’ Somaiya, are digital-news outlets like the $2.5 billion juggernaut Vice Media. Vice Media is eating Playboy’s lunch at the moment. And it is doing so with an entire vertical dedicated to the genre that made Playboy famous.

In Lagos, the magazine is virtually extinct, from once being the go to bad boy magazine of an entire generation. Thanks to the internet, all you need now is data and a curious mind. Like most things hard copy, the soft versions are fast taking over.


Ifeanyi Maduka is the Chief Content Strategist at with a few original pieces under his belt. He is an amateur photographer still searching for the holy grail, the killer shot. It will come.

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