Playboy is an adult magazine founded in 1953 by Hugh Hefner, which has grown into Playboy Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE: PLA, PLA.A), reaching into every form of media. Playboy is one of the world's best known brands. The magazine has a carefully crafted image which promotes a libidinous lifestyle for men, the main elements being beautiful women, expensive cars, and the various accoutrements of luxury, extravagance and quality. In addition to the flagship magazine in the United States, special country-specific versions of Playboy are published worldwide.
The magazine is published monthly and features photographs of nude women, along with various articles on fashion, sports, and consumer goods, and often short fiction by top literary writers as well. Over the years, Playboy has published many interviews with celebrities from various fields by notable writers such as Alex Haley; these interviews are often of a high literary caliber and some have been reprinted in book form. These interviews are largely responsible for Playboy being available in some university and even public libraries, as well as the long-running joke quoted by many men: "I only read it for the articles!"
A few of the notable authors who have had works published in Playboy include John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Ian Fleming, Jack Kerouac, Alex Haley, Stephen King, Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury, and many more.
The "Playboy Interview", a monthly interview of someone well-known, has become famous for its confrontational style. Controversies arose over President Jimmy Carter's morality after his candid interview. The magazine has been known to express left-wing opinions on most major political issues.
The magazine is owned by Playboy Enterprises, a publicly traded corporation listed on the New York Stock Exchange (trading symbol: PLA), having a market capitalization of $262 Million (December, 2002; Source: Yahoo Finance).
Playboy's use of "tasteful" nude photos is often classified as "soft core" adult reading material. More "hard core" pornographic magazines started to appear in the 1960s in response to the success of Penthouse.
Actually, the earliest photos of models for pictorials and centerfolds are best classified as risqué as full-frontal nudity did not appear in the magazine until 1969. The first "Playmate" whose pubic hair appeared in a centerfold photograph was posed with her back to the camera, so that the innovation was subtly presented, being visible only reflected in a mirror rather than being part of the main focus of the shot.
The first centerfold was Marilyn Monroe, although the picture used had originally been taken for a calendar rather than Playboy. Hefner purchased the rights to the photos of Monroe along with others.
The first issue, published in December, 1953, did not carry a date, as Hefner was unsure whether there would be a second issue. That first issue was an immediate sensation and sold out within a matter of weeks. Known circulation was 53,991 (Source: Playboy Collector's Association Playboy Magazine Price Guide). The cover price was 50¢. Copies of the first issue in Mint to Near Mint condition can fetch over $5000 in 2002.
The famous Playboy logo, depicting the stylized profile of a rabbit wearing a tuxedo bow tie, was designed by art designer Art Paul for the magazine's second issue and has appeared on every issue since; a running joke in the magazine involves hiding the logo somewhere in the cover art or photograph. Hefner said that he chose the rabbit as a mascot for its "humorous sexual connotation", and because the image was "frisky and playful".
Since reaching its peak in the 1970s, Playboy has seen a slow decline in circulation and success, in part due to a series of bad investments in men's clubs and casinos, and partly from increased competition in the field it founded - first from Penthouse in the '70s and more recently from the related area of more irreverent and socially acceptable "lad's mags" such as Maxim and FHM.
In response Playboy has attempted to re-assert its hold on the 18 - 35 male demographic it once controlled through slight changes to its content and focussing on issues and personalities more appropriate to its audience - such as hip-hop artists being featured in the Playboy Interview.
Bans on the sale of Playboy
In Singapore, Playboy is banned. In 2003, the Censorship Review Committee concluded that the ban should be continued because the Singaporean community is not ready for Playboy's liberal use of sexually explicit photographs. In the 1980s, a well-publicized ban occurred when the American convenience store chain 7-Eleven decided to remove the magazine from its stores.
On the 14th of January 2004 the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that Playboy Enterprises Inc.'s trademark terms "playboy" and "playmate" should be protected even in Internet searches that prompt pop-up advertisements. The suit originally started on April 15th 1999, Playboy sued Excite Inc. and Netscape for copyright infringement.
In the original ruling the Honorable Alicemarie Stotler, of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, stated: ""Defendants" use of the words "playboy" and "playmate" in their search engine does not equate to commercial exploitation of plaintiff's ("PEI") trademarks."
The best-selling Playboy edition was the November 1972, which sold 7,161,561 copies.
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