Playboy Was Already Losing Millions Well Before Coronavirus

To be fair, it's not exactly groundbreaking news that print media has been bleeding money for years

Playboy losing millions of dollars
Playboy was already in trouble. Coronavirus didn't help.
NurPhoto/Corbis via Getty Images
By Kayla Kibbe / March 20, 2020 12:25 pm

It’s an open secret that when Playboy announced it would be shutting down its iconic print magazine earlier this week, it came as little surprise to even the most die-hard supporters of the ever-divisive brand.

Playboy’s founding print product has been struggling for decades, with the last five years seeing a chaotic series of rapid-fire revival attempts including the loss of nudity, its subsequent reinstatement, and a millennial-focused rebranding that saw the old-school flesh mag transformed into something more closely resembling a fine arts quarterly.

And while Playboy CEO Ben Kohn cited coronavirus woes alongside the shifting nature of “media consumption habits,” it turns out things may have been far worse at the magazine than expected even before the coronavirus pandemic took hold. According to a “wellplaced” Media Ink source, Playboy was losing about $1 million per issue after the 2019 rebrand to an ad-free quarterly, adding up to around $5 million in losses per year, the New York Post reported.

Moreover, while Kohn praised the Playboy brand’s continued success outside the print magazine, Media Ink sources claim the brand only reaps a fraction of the $3 billion in worldwide sales Kohn boasted, with more than half that revenue reportedly coming from overseas licensing deals.

“None of the US media has made any money for years,” the source said, according to the Post.

Regardless, Kohn claimed the Playboy brand “is more successful than ever before,” in Wednesday’s open letter announcing the end of the print mag, boasting a “massive audience” including a four million-strong increase in Instagram followers and a 50-percent growth in engagement across the brand’s social channels over the past six months. The brand will continue to publish content, expanding Playboy’s growing digital platform.

“We’re turning our attention to achieving our mission in the most effective and impactful way we can: to help create a culture where all people can pursue pleasure,” Kohn wrote. “We look forward to continuing to work together with all of you to keep our business strong and growing.”

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