Coronavirus kills Playboy print magazine for 2020

'Print will always be a part of who we are'

Playboy Magazine, at least the iconic print version that gained notoriety for its centerfolds of scantily-clad women, has fallen prey to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Production will cease for the rest of the year following its spring 2020 issue, CEO Ben Kohn wrote in a Medium post citing supply-chain woes.

“As the disruption of the coronavirus pandemic to content production and the supply chain became clearer and clearer, we were forced to accelerate a conversation we’ve been having internally: the question of how to transform our U.S. print product to better suit what consumers want today," Kohn wrote Wednesday. "With all of this in mind, we have decided that our Spring 2020 Issue ... will be our final printed publication for the year in the U.S."

Playboy's August 1984 edition [Playboy]

For the rest of the year, the company will largely focus on its digital content. However, Kohn emphasized that Playboy isn't saying goodbye to print forever.

"Print is how we began, and print will always be a part of who we are," he said.

Long before the coronavirus disruption, the magazine was suffering from a decline in circulation due to the rising popularity of online porn, the Verge reported.

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In 2015, the publication's circulation was roughly 800,000, a far cry from its height of roughly 5.6 million in 1975, according to data from Alliance for Audited Media cited by outlets including the Wall Street Journal.

In 2019, the company cut back from six issues a year to a quarterly format, according to the New York Post.

The broader brand that grew out of the magazine developed by Hugh Hefner, though, is more successful than ever before, Kohn said.

The company attracted 4 million new Instagram followers over the past year, and its engagement on social media channels has climbed more than 50 percent over the past six months. Additionally, Kohn says the company grew its digital video subscriptions and acquired a direct-to-consumer commerce operation.

“Over the past 66 years, we’ve become far more than a magazine," he said. "And sometimes you have to let go of the past to make room for the future."

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Although the magazine will be moving largely online, Kohn noted that print editions will return in 2021.

“We will bring back fresh and innovative printed offerings in a variety of new forms -- through special editions, partnerships with the most provocative creators, timely collections and much more," he said.

The spring issue is slated to arrive on U.S. newsstands and as a digital download this week.

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