When Will The Playboy Penthouse Battle See A Victor?
In the first American issue of Penthouse Magazine, Bob Guccione asked “What about Playboy?” in a house call to Hugh Hefner.
The New York Times reported that as of the March 2016 issue, Playboy will no longer publish photographs of fully nude women in its magazine and online content. However, Playboy Plus and Playboy TV are still alive, well, and untouched. No mention of their execution has been mentioned in the press, allowing us to believe that (1) yes, Playboy will be restructuring its publications and content, but (2) Playboy will still maintain its “other” online presence. Since Playboy’s creation, the iconic adult magazine has fueled sexual fantasies and revolutionized sex as we know it. Combined with Penthouse, Playboy sparked America’s sexual revolution, and fought for the country’s acceptance of photographs previously identified as purely pornographic. By challenging the social stigma towards nudity at the time, Playboy and Penthouse paved the way to the future of sexuality as we know it today; however, for Playboy specifically it came at a price.
According to the New York Times, Playboy has been overtaken by the very changes it pioneered. Playboy’s Chief Executive Scott Flanders explained, “That battle has been fought and won. You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. And so it’s just passé at this juncture.” But how on earth will this new re-vamp be able to compete with every other artistic-clothed-model magazine out there? Maxim, Sports Illustrated, and Vogue have reigned supreme in that genre for decades. More interestingly, when Bob Guccione decided to publish Penthouse in the U.S., there was much controversy and friction from Playboy fans yet today Playboy plans to transfer into a market where it will be the new comer also wanting a piece of the already divided pie. Playboy may not succeed in this new endeavor; and may fail, because Playboy is only leaving one over saturated market for another. Perhaps Hugh Hefner and Playboy can heed to Bob Guccione’s memorandum included in the first American edition of Penthouse: The International Magazine For Men.
Before you say to yourself, “What kind of a magazine is this that dares to compete with Playboy?,” we want to say it for you. We want to record our awareness that Penthouse is, in many respects, similar to its much-revered American counterpart before you feel obliged to do it for us. But there are other considerations or differences you may not be aware of –and, with a little gentle patience on your part, we’d like to enumerate them for you. Penthouse began life as a British magazine. It was the very first in its field –founded in London four and half years ago by this writer, an American artist of distinguished anonymity, no publishing experience and even less money. He, along with a small, embattled, and bewildered staff of mixed nationalities and common interests paid for the honor or being “first in the field” in the thickest skirmish of all –fighting for the right to publish the kind of revolutionary words and pictures that brought us unhappily to trial. We lost our case, of course, but went right on publishing the same words and the same pictures until the sheer volume of four readership won for us the grudging respect and authority in Establishment-oriented England that Playboy now enjoys in America.
Today, having unwittingly proven once again that might is right; Penthouse has become the all time, biggest selling quality magazine in the history of British publishing. An accomplishment that bears direct comparison to the likes of Life or Look or the late Saturday Evening Post rather than Playboy. In France, where Penthouse competes on neutral territory with these, as well as other of the world’s finest publications, it is not the largest selling non-French periodical in any category. And in every other country in which it is sold, Penthouse is among the top three best-selling English-language titles. To further compound the enigma of our success, the issue you hold in your hands marks the first time a British-based periodical has ever attempted to challenge an American rival on home ground. Which say something for our unshakable belief in the universality of male interests, as well as bringing us right back ‘round to our first point –what about Playboy?
The simple fact is that we are probably less interested in them than they are in us, and perhaps the best way to qualify our apparently intrusive behavior is to state not only why we are here, but now that we are here, what do we have to offer? For a start, the assumption that an affluent nation of 200 million people constitutes a market big enough and lush enough to support two magazines of the same genre provide us with all the economic rationalization we need. Add to this the material fact that we are the first and only English-language magazine of our type ever to outsell Playboy anywhere in the world and you will learn whence we get our heart. Now we all know that Playboy occupies a position of absolute autocracy in the men’s field. It has no competition –neither a smear nor a smell as far as the eye can see. The closest contender to its walloping 4.8 million sales on the American scene is a long faltering, if not already exhausted, also-ran at something less than 200,000. The gap is unnatural, not to mention unhealthy –nor does it exist anywhere else in publishing. Playboy, like all things quintessentially American, needs a competitor and Penthouse is the only magazine around whose performance, quality, and editorial temperament qualify it for the job.
And we have something specific to offer in our own right. Penthouse is not a parochial magazine nor will it ever become simply reflective of the time and place in which we live. It is a fighter, a leader and an innovator, born –not of the relatively placed Playboy epoch of the early 50s but of the age of the social, moral, and intellectual revolution of the 60s. We are a child of the permissive society –the first major periodical to be created out of this unique, sometimes incongruous, but perennially dynamic era. We have none of the sexual hang ups of the lingering and fundamentally puritan tradition of Playboy. We report rather than preach and, whereas our own success has made us equally responsible editorially, the only Penthouse philosophy you’re likely to encounter can be summed up in four immaculate and meaningful words: “To each his own.” Apart from this, Penthouse –with fully operational editorial sales and circulation offices in London and New York bureaus in Paris, Rome, Geneva, Berlin, Budapest, Tel Aviv, Saigon, and Rio de Janeiro –becomes the first-ever truly international magazine for men.
From this vantage point, we intend to inform, amuse, and generally cater for the expanding international consciousness of the American male. More people are traveling for business or pleasure today than ever before. Our ethnic, political and geographic frontiers are falling as the world shrinks, not only in the time-space continuum of travel and communications, but in our cultural economics links as well. So this, in a nutshell, is where we’re at. This is our scene and, given a brief opportunity to get our bearings, we intend to develop it further and cover it better than anyone else. As far as Playboy is concerned, we’ve said our piece as honestly and directly as we know how. We’re here to stay, and if you still have any doubts or questions write to us –and or write to them. Either way the answer should be interesting.
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