No, Virginia, The Print Edition of 'Penthouse' Isn't Dead

CHATSWORTH, Calif.—The mainstream press misreports news of the adult industry so often, no one in the industry should be surprised that, based on Penthouse's press release of last week (which AVN corrected here), all of them are reporting that the magazine is going entirely digital, with some implying that the magazine will cease print production immediately while others are speculating that it will continue in print for a few more months. Neither are true.

"To answer what was picked up in the press, obviously the mainstream press doesn't read down to the bottom of press releases," noted Penthouse Managing Director Kelly Holland. "We never suggested that we were stopping Penthouse's print publication. What we said was that we were launching the digital edition. We're really excited about that. We have some interesting, cutting-edge technology for digital print; our digital publication is going to be really interactive, and we're really excited about that, and we're working on that, but saying that we're launching digital is not to imply that we're suspending the print publication. As a matter of fact, we're just closing our March issue and beginning to work on the April edition.

"I think announcing that we're launching digital coupled with the fact that we're moving our print operations from New York to Los Angeles was somehow an easy suggestion that we're closing print, but we absolutely are not," she added. "I find the print publication still relevant. I think print has a gravitas that digital does not. Print has allowed us to access people and advertisers and relationships that I don't think we could ever have accessed with only a digital publication. We need to message to a new generation, which is the millennials, and granted, the millennials rarely pick up a book; however, our print publication has allowed us to make alliances with brands that are relevant to millennials through a variety of means, both our advertising plus a project we have called Pop Shots, where we ask cultural icons to come in and shoot a layout and put their take on what they find to be hot about women, and that in turn has put us into a relationship with the millennial generation."

Holland noted that the magazine recently brought in Love & Hip Hop's Stevie J to shoot a Pop Shots layout which will be coming out in the March edition and which will be covered on Love & Hip Hop.

"That's obviously a demographic we want to speak to, and we want Stevie J speaking in the magazine," Holland said. "So there are lots of reasons to keep a print publication going. What we believe is that by moving it to Los Angeles and consolidating it into what are already the broadcast operations and the licensing operations, we can do two things: We can cut significant costs, which are critical to keeping the print magazine on the stands, and we can also bring all of the important brand voices under one roof so there is consistent brand messaging.

"Brand is the thing that drives me in every business decision I make," she revealed. "So to recap, we are absolutely not suspending publication of the magazine. We are launching digital, and we believe digital will be a wonderful companion and different. People in publishing know this: A print magazine is very different from a digital magazine, which is dealing with daily, hourly news. Those are two very different beasts, but we find that they'll be compatible and create some gestalt for the brand by having both out there."

Among the features that online readers will find in the new digital Penthouse will be embedded videos and possibly even some motion .gifs.

"The digital edition is going to give us the ability to interface more with our social media and have more feedback from our fans and subscribers," Holland explained. "We want to encourage people, for example, to submit their erotic letters; that's a Penthouse staple; we're known for that. So by engaging people in a digital way, and adding a digital subscription, current print subscribers will get a free digital subscription as part of their subscription package, and that will be offered on an ongoing basis to print subscribers: for one price, you get digital and print, or you can subscribe to digital a la carte."

In light of recently announced developments at Playboy, Holland believes that now is the perfect time to add digital content to the Penthouse magazine brand.

"This really is the perfect moment to be continuing on, because now, frankly, by default, we own the space," she said. "I won't question my competitor's decision to take nudity out of their magazine as a response to free porn; however, I am not in agreement with that position. I think that's a very wrong analysis of the marketplace and a very wrong analysis of the brand and the positioning of the magazine, so we are happy, we are applauding 'the bunny' in that decision, and we are happy to occupy the space they are vacating."

So, to recap: Penthouse magazine, still printing. Penthouse Digital, right on the horizon. Playboy magazine without nudity, on the verge of dropping off the map. And fans won't have to bring their laptop into the bathroom with them.