For Playboy, the latest mobile app effort really is about the articles. The iconic media brand, which is in the middle of a digital-era makeover, launched a safe-for-work app this week aimed at a general audience. These days, Playboy is banking on a very 21st-century business strategy: readers sharing their content on social media.
The new app, called Playboy Now, is designed to highlight original mobile content and work-safe content from Playboy’s main site. Phillip Morelock, the company’s chief product officer, told Fast Company that 80% of Playboy’s traffic currently comes from mobile, with most of it coming in after 4 p.m. “Playboy owns the night,” he joked. It’s the second mobile product from the company in two years; back in 2013, Playboy released an app version of its magazine that does not includes nudity, due to the restrictions of both Google and Apple’s app stores.
But for media watchers, the interesting thing to see here is how the app helps Playboy recover from the licensing-away of its digital properties in the early 2000s and early 2010s. After the Internet decimated Playboy’s traditional business model of paying money to see pornography, the company intensified its already aggressive licensing strategy. As part of that licensing project, its Internet presence was completely outsourced to partners such as hardcore porn giant Manwin (now MindGeek). Playboy sold the rights to Playboy.com to Manwin in 2011, right at the dawn of the digital advertising boom. The company payed a significant sum to reacquire the rights three years later, while MindGeek still operates the Playboy TV brand. Shortly after the acquisition, Playboy.com was relaunched in 2014 as an advertiser-friendly lifestyle site instead of as an adult-content hub.
The Playboy.com relaunch of 2014 was followed by the launch of a Playboy SFW site on Gawker Media’s Kinja platform several months later. For Playboy, which has been redefining its identity in the post-print media world, its strategy to attract advertising is simple: Less nudity, more articles, and more YouTube-friendly videos.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said Playboy’s magazine app launched in 2014.