Playboy Makes Over Website to Be More Facebook-Friendly

Dimension Films, Bud Light, Hornitos Sign on as Advertisers

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Advertising Age Player

Playboy has a new website that the publisher hopes you might even share with your mom on Facebook.

Next Monday, the 60-year-old men's magazine will "officially" revamp its 20-year-old website to put a heightened focus on serving up grown-up entertainment that's not overly "adult." 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.

"What we're focused on now is launching the next iteration of Playboy.com as a classic men's lifestyle destination all about entertainment, style, nightlife and -- oh yeah -- of course girls," said Playboy Chief Revenue Officer Matt Mastrangelo.

The revamped site's Style section.

That's a departure from the old Playboy.com. It did not offer nudity -- that's over at a separate, subscription-only site -- but still filled its home page pretty much exclusively with scantily clad women. The shift also better reflects Playboy's monthly print magazine, which only features girls on 12% of its pages, according to Mr. Mastrangelo.

When Ad Age previewed the new site on Wednesday, a sidebar on the home page listing the 10 most popular stories only included one that featured women in provocative poses. The top story -- a list of the 100 best toys of the 1990s -- encapsulates the aim of the new site, which isn't so different from today's top socially driven publishers, such as BuzzFeed.

"The editorial mantra for content is to ask ourselves, 'Would you send this to a friend?'" said Cory Jones, senior VP-digital content at Playboy.

That may be a harder question for Playboy's readers to answer than BuzzFeed's. Even though Playboy.com has always been nude-free, Mr. Jones acknowledged the common perception that the site is synonymous with skin. The new site is meant to correct that reputation in order to make people more comfortable sharing links to the site on Facebook.

"What we're going to be doing is if you go to a Playboy.com link that's not around girls, there won't be girls around the page," Mr. Jones said. Given that "everyone's mom is on Facebook," he said, that shift means you can feel comfortable sharing content knowing that your mom can clicks without getting inundated in photos of naked women.

Social is a bigger priority for Playboy's new site than mobile, which accounts for 60% of the Playboy.com's monthly traffic. The site is responsively designed so that content automatically resizes to fit a smartphone, tablet or desktop screen, but that's "the price of entry these days," said Phillip Morelock, Playboy's senior VP-chief product officer for digital media. "We developed everything on the site for social," Mr. Morelock said. "We're focused on Facebook now because that's where our largest audience is."

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.

More than 60 millions 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, Mr. Mastrangelo said.

The emphasis on more socially acceptable content may help Playboy attract more advertisers looking to reach its target audience of guys 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," as Mr. Jones put it. Dimension Films, Bud Light and Hornitos have signed on as the new site's first big advertisers.

"What Playboy does for some brands is build credibility in utilizing a natural approach to sexiness in the entertainment business," said Bladimiar Norman, Dimension Films' senior VP-marketing. "Take a look at what Playboy has done over the last couple years. They've tried to transition the brand into more of a lifestyle environment."

Dimension Films sponsored a 'listicle' on Playboy.com to promote its new 'Sin City' release.
Dimension Films sponsored a 'listicle' on Playboy.com to promote its new 'Sin City' release.

For the release of Dimension Films' "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For," Playboy and the studio created sponsored "listicle" highlighting the movie's female stars. That article was the only girl-centric one to have cracked Playboy.com's most popular list on Wednesday and was a key part of the film's social marketing strategy.

"As a marketer my goal is to get into massive environments where consumers are actively engaged in content and find ways to market my film relative to that audience base. It is a sexy movie, but what can we do that's classy sexy, not trashy sexy," Mr. Norman said.

The majority of Playboy's revenue still comes from its monthly print magazine, "but if you look at it going out two to three years, it will probably invert itself and the majority will be digital," Mr. Mastrangelo said.

Right now the site is largely selling standard banner ads, but the publisher's sales teams are planning to push more sponsored content and custom work for brands. Mr. Mastrangelo is also looking into creating an in-house creative agency at Playboy to work with advertisers as he did a decade ago at Rolling Stone. "Banners and buttons are not going to be a big part of what we're talking about," he said.

Playboy execs and representatives declined to share the site's monthly traffic figures, but Mr. Mastrangelo said the goal is to attract 4 million monthly unique visitors by the end of this year and grow that stat to 8 to 10 million a year from now.

ComScore declined to share traffic figures for Playboy.com and Playmates.com because the research firm categorizes them as "adult" sites and has a policy of not sharing data for those types of sites, a ComScore spokesman said.

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