CYBERSPACE—With little to no fanfare, Playboy.com has relaunched with a serious new goal in mind: to conquer social media. No longer intent to be a destination synonymous with "your father's porn," the site is being transformed into one "the publisher hopes you might even share with your mom on Facebook," as AdAge.com put it yesterday. That's not a typo. Adage adds, "The new Playboy.com—which consumers could see on Thursday in a 'soft launch'—more closely resembles GQ or Esquire than lad mags like Maxim."
The brand's attempted transformation into something different from what it has universally been known for is actually not that new. In March, Playboy announced a partnership with rap artist Pitbull, in a continuing effort to, as Playboy Enterprises CEO Scott Flanders put it at the time, "[Re-interpret] our enduring brand."
And all the way back in 2010, the company explored tame territory with TheSmokingJacket.com, which was described as "a 'safe-for-work' website the company says is intended to provide 'guys with smart and sexy distractions throughout the day.'" Whatever reasons the company gave for launching the site, however, it still seemed like an accomodation to people's evolving interaction with content and one another, a recognition that they need to be engaged during the day, too, which often means at work. A refocus on Playboy's simmering sophistication has also been a talking point of late.
But those were baby steps compared with the reimagining and retooling that has gone into the latest iteration of Playboy.com. As explained by Quartz, the changes are "intended to optimize the site’s content for sharing on social media, Facebook in particular. That means fewer naked or near-naked women, more articles fashioned out of Buzzfeed-style lists, and frequent slideshows and posts about lifestyle and entertainment."
The company's embrace of Facebook may not be new, either, According to AdAge, "More than 60 million pieces of Playboy.com content makes it into people's Facebook feeds each month, and roughly half of the site's audience encountered its content through a social share."
More to the point, as AdAge notes, "The emphasis on more socially acceptable content may help Playboy attract more advertisers looking to reach its target audience," which Cory Jones, senior VP-digital content at Playboy, defines as men who are "in their late 20s and single but dating and got a promotion so he's got a little money in his pocket he's looking to spend, trying to climb the corporate ladder but also trying to have fun."
It is more than a little ironic then that Playboy.com, unlike other digital Playboy properties that offer hardcore porn (and have for years, courtesy of Manwin/Mindgeek), never had any nudity, despite filling "its home page pretty much exclusively with scantily clad women."
Similarly, Playboy magazine, still the revenue leader at the company after all these years, as AdAge notes, "Only features girls on 12% of its pages."
Both of those examples, as well as the new focus on being social media friendly, comports with Jones' comment to AdAge that "The editorial mantra for content is to ask ourselves, 'Would you send this to a friend?'" Or your mom?
The shift to social is especially interesting in light of Playboy's success with other significant trends, such as mobile, which will not be incorporated into the social paradigm. Indeed, as AdAge notes with a hint of incredulity, "Social is a bigger priority for Playboy's new site than mobile, which accounts for 60% of the Playboy.com's monthly traffic."
It's all a part of a bigger plan, Phillip Morelock, Playboy's senior VP-chief product officer for digital media, told AdAge, adding, "We developed everything on the site for social." To that end, the responsively designed site will now automatically resize content to fit the screen of any fixed or mobile-wireless device.
If the numbers Playboy already has in hand are any indication of its potential reach on social media, it's already well on its way to a successful rebrand. AdAge reports, "As of Wednesday, Playboy counted 15.6 million Facebook fans, 881,000 Twitter followers, 1 million YouTube subscribers, 1.4 million Instagram followers and 62,400 Vine followers." Not too shabby for an "old school" brand.
The new strategy appears to be spearheaded by two executives "from the digital content space" who were brought on board in June to help realign the company's digital portfolio.
The aforementioned Cory Jones, now Senior Vice President Digital Content, Digital Media, previously served "as Editorial Director of Maxim.com, Defy Media and most recently as editor in chief of the Whalerock/AOL men’s website Mandatory.com."
Also, Matthew Mastrangelo was named as the new chief revenue officer for Playboy Media. Mastrangelo came "to Playboy from Condé Nast’s title Self, where he was Associate Publisher."