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Playboy deeper into Net

The company unveils a major online strategy that includes e-commerce services for young, male Internet users.

3 min read
SANTA MONICA, California--In a move to lure young male Net users, Playboy Enterprises today announced a major online strategy that includes more original content and e-commerce services on its popular Web site.

Playboy chairwoman Christie Hefner made the announcement at the Herring on Hollywood new media conference here.

See special feature: Playboy pins hopes on Net The company's flagship site, Playboy.com, already draws about 65.5 million page views per month, she said, and Playboy Online's revenues grew 84 percent in the first quarter of this year.

But as previously reported, Hefner's long-term strategy is to make the site an e-commerce haven to sell Playboy videos, merchandise, and memberships to its exclusive Cyber Club, which charges up to $60 per year for access to archived articles and photos, as well as Playmate chats and their home pages.

The overall goal for Playboy Online, a division launched in January, is to draw in a new generation of Playboy faithfuls by carrying diverse online content and services in addition to its popular pictorials.

The media company is far from alone in its goal to successfully move to the Internet. But as others have discovered, creating viable ventures online requires a lot more than simply putting up Web sites.

"I think that brands are permission to play," Hefner said, "but they are by no means a guarantee of success."

She pointed out that the music network on television is called MTV, not Rolling Stone. Companies that made it on television were entrepreneurial, not established print brands. Newer firms, she added, were willing to experiment with the elements of the then-new medium.

Hefner attributed Playboy's key to success over three media--print, cable television, and the Web--to its flexibility and willingness to deal with each entity individually.

"We have a great deal of respect for the unique properties of each medium and don't try to, in effect, translate from one to another, but rather try and capture what the essence of the brand is and then reinvent it in that new medium," she said.

She noted that there is plenty of incentive to be successful on the Web because the potential for profit is so great. Early on, Hefner said she thought that "if you were willing to invest up front in the technological infrastructure and in the creative content, once you got past a certain number of homes that could generate a certain amount of money...The margin is even better than the margin in television."

The executive added that the partnerships announced today are part of the company's strategy to build the Playboy site into what introductory speaker Robert Arnon, chief executive of Quad Research, called a "portal for young men."

New editorial content will be provided by the Hecklers Online humor site; Monk, a site that chronicles life on the road; the Smoking Gun, a celebrity news site; and news feeds from Reuters.

Playboy also launched new content sections: "Compete" is about games and extreme sports; "Pop" covers arts and entertainment; and "Sexcetera" involves relationships, sex, and gender.

Playboy Online also announced several e-commerce partnerships today. Playboy.com's "Marketplace" will now include Amazon.com, My-CD.com, Classifieds2000, Software.net; District Photo, which will sell Playboy magazine covers through the site; FreeRide, which offers points for products bought online and can be redeemed for more merchandise; and Roxy Systems, a provider of digital satellite systems.

Hefner noted that Playboy would continue to create its own content and bring in more partners, such as it did with its listening area, which is part of a partnership with Rhino Records.

One area the firm is looking to build is Prowl, a local city guide service. Hefner said Playboy would partner with a local guide company for the content but would apply its own "filter" for content that is consistent with its audience.

In response to a question about convergence--or as it's being called at the conference, "integration"--Hefner said that as devices converge and delivery mechanisms expand with broadband services, Playboy would try to remain "platform-neutral."

Beth Lipton reported from Santa Monica and Courtney Macavinta from San Francisco.