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.