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Playboy readies for-pay Cyber Club

Playboy is gearing up for the relaunch of its sexy Cyber Club.

Playboy Enterprises is gearing up for the reopening of its flashy Cyber Club today by naming an editor and unveiling new features.

The subscription-based Cyber Club will feature a photo archive with 9 million pictures, monthly chats with a Playmate, and access to hundreds of Playmate home pages.

The club was quickly closed down after it launched last November because traffic to the site was overwhelming. The relaunch date hasn't been set, but the company has already passed up its previous goal of a March deadline. Beta testing is wrapping up now, a spokeswoman said.

Playboy has hired Rodger Brown as editor, Lisa Natale as vice president of Internet sales, and Susan Feigenbaum as marketing manager of new media. Brown comes form Eason Publications; the others were promoted in-house.

Adult magazine sites have surfers coughing up cash all over the Net for "never-seen-before" pictures and content. But the competition is growing between for-pay adult entertainment sites.

Playboy is trying to dazzle customers with new multimedia features, such as its virtual Playboy Mansion created with software by The Palace. Subscribers can roam through the 35-room mansion, bumping into animated Playboy bunnies and others, and chat in real time.

Penthouse is also enhancing its site. It invested $10 million to create Penthouse Internet Television, which streams video 24 hours a day on its Web site for a fee. Its first channel, "Penthouse Live," is already pulling in tons of traffic, according to company spokeswoman Jackie Markham.

Playboy is charging $6.95 a month, $18 per quarter, or $60 a year for the Cyber Club, but visitors will be able to make CyberCash micropayments of a $1 or more to explore the site for a day.

Penthouse offers an annual membership for $14.95 a month for its standard site, but says that is a special rate that could be raised. Penthouse Internet Television charges from 99 cents to $49.95 for live-video clips.

Online sites often struggle through their transitions to cost-based services. But some content sites, such as Quote.com and the Wall Street Journal Interactive, have had success with charging for certain features of their service.