Apple Nixes Nudes in Playboy iPad App -- and Any Hope For Success

Last Updated Aug 20, 2010 6:28 PM EDT

Playboy (PLA) enters the popular mobile pornography market with its new Apple (APPL) iPad app, but Apple's policy required the men's magazine remove all the nudity. Now digital users will have to read it just for the articles -- and the already struggling Playboy empire is even more exposed to the more nimble competition.

The problem is that consumers aren't paying for just content. A comparable magazine, GQ, sold only 365 copies of its first iPad issue when it launched -- and it arrived relatively early in the iPad cycle when consumers were more eager to purchase a stand-alone magazine.

Aside from lobbying a change in Apple's no-adult policy, Playboy could have handled this no nudes issue better than self-censorship:

Make the app cheaper: Playboy is currently charging $4.99 for the digital magazine, the same price as the newsstand edition that actually has Playboy models. Not a lot of logic here. As my BNet colleague Cathy Taylor noted, at least overpriced editions of WIRED, Vanity Fair and other magazines actually added content to the mix -- they didn't subtract value.

People Magazine negotiated a subscription model with Apple. Playboy is ripe for the subscription setup -- especially since it is trying to push readers to go digital with the website's pay walled Playboy Cyber Club. A package deal would be brilliant.

Make the app free: Why is Playboy charging for the app when it can barely sell the actual magazine? Meanwhile, Hustler and other competitors are making their websites iPad-ready, effectively turning the iPad into a mobile pornographic device.

The main asset Playboy has is that it has enough public acceptance to easily get into the Apple App Store. Playboy could create a free Apple app that serves as a guide or a preview to the current content available online. Again, this strategy would fall right in line with its previous push to get more pay wall customers -- and would enable the nude magazine to avoid the censorship discussion altogether.

Rebrand the app: Playboy just launched a non-nude, "safe for work" site, The Smoking Jacket (named after Hugh Hefner's infamous attire), that aims straight for the Maxim crowd. Why isn't Playboy creating an app for the website? It likely skews younger, which means there is a higher chance of iPad adoption, and it is non-nude, which means it falls fairly well into Apple's guidelines.

The Smoking Jacket app won't attract as many initially readers as Playboy, but it would be a smart way to upsell users to buy an actual Playboy or, even better, join the aforementioned Playboy Cyber Club for full access to Playboy.com.

Playboy needs to be on the iPad in some form, but a censored version of the print magazine is a boring, if not dangerous strategy.

Photo courtesy of miserylingers
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