It’s tough being Playboy these days. Sure, there are still plenty of guys who would gladly switch places with dapper octogenarian Hugh Hefner in a second if it meant living in the Playboy mansion and consorting with a half dozen perky 20-year-olds. But that doesn’t change the fact that Playboy itself is outdated – the magazine industry is slowly dying and, making matters worse, Playboy is attempting to peddle glossy, airbrushed photos of tastefully-posed nude women in a world where their target demographic spends their days watching video of “the girl next door” getting tagged teamed by the mailman and the pizza delivery guy on countless free online porn sites.
It used to be that celebrities looking to extend their 15 minutes of fame posed for Playboy. It was a bold move that made a starlet seem edgy. Now, they just release a sex tape online. (Even former playmate Kendra Wilkinson has one.) The only big name celebrity still going the Playboy route these days is Marge Simpson. It’s a brave new world. And in the hedonistic future world that is the Internet, Playboy just seems downright quaint.
So what is a struggling nudie mag to do? Playboy has decided to become even more quaint by getting rid of the nudity altogether. Yesterday, the company officially launched The Smoking Jacket, a “safe for work” site which aims to be “a juke box of cool” according to Playboy’s editorial director Jimmy Jellinek, who is under the mistaken impression that juke boxes are still cool.
“A lot of our audience logs on (to Playboy.com) after work,” Jellinek also said, “and we saw that we were missing a golden opportunity to reach guys when they’re online the most: when they’re sitting at their desk, not working, sending e-mails to their friends.”
On the surface, it seems counterintuitive. It would be like the Outback opening a restaurant that didn’t have any steaks and instead served nothing but blooming onions. But, strange as the idea seems, it could actually work. While countless “I read Playboy for the articles” jokes have been made over the years, the fact is that the magazine usually does have engaging feature articles, short stories written by notable authors and interviews with big name celebrities. So offering that content on a SFW site could actually be a recipe for success, since it would allow men a chance to read these quality articles out in public without receiving dirty looks one gets when carrying around a Playboy.
Unfortunately, The Smoking Jacket doesn’t actually feature any of that content. Instead, the site has photos of sexy women in their underwear, thinly-veiled advertisements masquerading as product recommendations and incredibly boring, generic articles. Essentially, The Smoking Jacket is an online version of Maxim.
The articles boast eye-catching titles like “10 Ways Not to Suck in Bed,” “7 Signs That You’ve Given Up on Getting Laid” and “How to Get Laid at Work” (which is technically SFW, but I wouldn’t recommend leaving it up on your work computer unless you want a visit from HR). “10 Ways Not to Suck in Bed” offers “insightful” advice like “Don’t refer to your penis by its nickname” and “Don’t use Twitter to announce you just got laid.” (Hey, if a special lady meets the Octagon, James Westfall and Doctor Kenneth Noisewater, I’m going to tweet about it.) “7 Signs That You’ve Given Up on Getting Laid” includes the use of paper plates, the presence of sweatpants and poor dental hygiene. (Personally, I would also add “Logging several hours on a nudity-free version of Playboy” to the list.)
“How to Get Laid at Work” doesn’t actually offer advice on how to score with a coworker. Instead it offers advice on how to keep an office tryst a secret. The advice itself is all common sense – things like “Never Use Your Corporate E-mail” or “Plan the First Kiss Offsite” – and after offering up this generic advice, the article essentially admits it was a waste of time to read by stating “eventually all office romances are discovered.” At least that article is honest. All of the other pieces on the site I came across were also a waste of time; they just didn’t have the common courtesy to admit it.
There is also a question of just how safe for work the site actually is. While there is no nudity, the scantily-clad photos of women featured on the site are not exactly something you want to have to explain at your next employee review. Also, the fact that most of the articles deal with sex (there is even a “Sex” tab on the top of the site) means that if there is a filter in place, there is a good chance your job is going to block access to The Smoking Jacket.
At the end of the day, whether it is SFW or not is irrelevant. The Smoking Jacket is a boring waste of time released by a dying company that no longer has its finger on the pulse of what its readers want. All the site does is guarantee that no one will ever be able to claim they read Playboy for the articles ever again. The time of Playboy is over. Just don’t tell Marge Simpson though – the last thing I want to see is her and Homer in a sex tape.
Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.