Last October, Playboy announced that after 62 years in print it was getting rid of its nudes in an effort to appeal to younger readers. Now, the magazine has unveiled the cover of its first ever "non-nude" issue, and, somewhat inevitably, it's Snapchat themed — featuring the app's familiar translucent text overlay, and with the model's hand reaching out of frame as if to take the photo. And why Snapchat? Marketers will tell you that no major platform's audience skews younger — with an estimated 45 percent of the app's users aged 18 to 24.
The magazine's cover star in this "ode to Snapchat" is also internet-appropriate: Sarah McDaniel is a model with heterochromia iridum (her eyes are different colors), who seems to have risen to fame in October last year after her Instagram snaps were picked up by websites like The Chive and BroBible. This influence of selfies seems designed to make readers feel as if the images are meant for them — as Playboy's chief content officer Cory Jones pointed out last year, although internet pornography has made nudity "passé," there's still an audience for more "intimate" snaps .
Dropping the full-frontal nudity has made for a more naturalistic magazine
The New York Times was given an advance copy of the redesigned March 2016 issue, and notes that despite Playboy's move to PG-13, there are still naked women in the magazine to be ogled at — they've just been photographed "in ways intended for strategic concealment." The Times adds, though, that the pictures are certainly more naturalistic: there's no airbrushing or carefully placed lighting, and the end result feels "more impromptu than posed." It's a tribute to selfies and cell phone cameras, but also to the aesthetic popularized by controversial fashion photographer Terry Richardson and American Apparel ads.
The redesigned magazine retains some of journalistic heritage as well, and features an interview with MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, as well as an essay by Norwegian memoirist Karl Ove Knausgaard. (The centerfold model is Dree Hemingway, great-granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway, but we're not sure that contributes towards its literary credentials.) In the end, though, this is all about regaining readers. Playboy say that the decision to make its website safe for work boosted traffic by 400 percent — it'll no doubt be happy if the print redesign can reach even a tenth of that extra audience.
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