The Economics of Playboy: Ask Your Questions Here

A one-time religion student at Columbia University, Chris Napolitano took a job at Playboy in 1988 as an editorial assistant in the fiction department. He went on to become features editor, executive editor, and in 2004 reached the top job, editorial director. (The editor-in-chief title remains reserved for founder Hugh Hefner.) In the spirit of Jim Cramer, Mark Cuban, and Sudhir Venkatesh, Napolitano has offered to answer questions from Freakonomics.com readers.

A few things to consider:

Napolitano’s job hasn’t been easy lately, with Playboy hustling to stay relevant in the modern world. Circulation has fallen from about 6 million in the early 1970s to about 3 million (a figure that the magazine struggled to hit in the first half of this year). Playboy is fighting back by offering a tiered online subscription service, digitally archiving its past issues, creating a presence in Second Life (the sexual proclivities of which we’ve touched on before), and offering content for iPhones.

So post your questions for Chris below. Please keep them fairly relevant and no stronger than PG-17. There are two lines of questioning I’m interested in hearing about:

1. To what degree is Playboy‘s circulation decline a magazine issue versus a pornography issue — i.e., the digital revolution has hurt most magazines’ circulation and advertising prospects while also greatly increasing the supply of pornography.

2. What sort of cultural/political maneuvering does Playboy engage in to have its magazine sold around the world? Is the magazine available, e.g., in places like Saudi Arabia, and if so, how does that happen?

Addendum: You can find the answers to these, and other, questions here.

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  1. abraxas says:

    I’d like to know what the office Christmas party is like.

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  2. abraxas says:

    I’d like to know what the office Christmas party is like.

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  3. Mario Ruiz says:

    Hi Stephen,

    Do you remember Last Tango in Paris? It was completely forbidden in some countries for the level of porn showed.

    The censorship, I wonder if they get an “R”

    Our levels of acceptance have changed. Playboy was a business model for times of “obscurantism.”

    Tell me one movie star you do not know her chess?

    Mario Ruiz
    http://www.oursheet.com

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  4. Mario Ruiz says:

    Hi Stephen,

    Do you remember Last Tango in Paris? It was completely forbidden in some countries for the level of porn showed.

    The censorship, I wonder if they get an “R”

    Our levels of acceptance have changed. Playboy was a business model for times of “obscurantism.”

    Tell me one movie star you do not know her chess?

    Mario Ruiz
    http://www.oursheet.com

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  5. HTB says:

    Playboy’s circulation has fallen by about half over three decades. Has that accelerated since the availability of high-speed Internet connections picked up? Or has it been a steady decline all along?

    If its decline tracks tightly with the mushrooming pornography online, then what can we conclude about the readers who used to say, “I only read it for the articles”?

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  6. HTB says:

    Playboy’s circulation has fallen by about half over three decades. Has that accelerated since the availability of high-speed Internet connections picked up? Or has it been a steady decline all along?

    If its decline tracks tightly with the mushrooming pornography online, then what can we conclude about the readers who used to say, “I only read it for the articles”?

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  7. schadenfreude says:

    My question:

    How much has the rise of FHM and Maxim hurt them? By not showing as much skin, these magazines are able to get a higher level of celebrities to appear. Is PB considering PG-13 pictorials featuring more relevant celebrities?

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  8. schadenfreude says:

    My question:

    How much has the rise of FHM and Maxim hurt them? By not showing as much skin, these magazines are able to get a higher level of celebrities to appear. Is PB considering PG-13 pictorials featuring more relevant celebrities?

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0