Penthouse to shutter print magazine, go all digital

Penthouse Magazine is throwing in the towel on its print edition.

General Media Communications, which oversees the publication, announced Friday that Penthouse would be released in a digital format moving forward, with subscriptions transferring to the Penthouse Magazine Website.

"This will be a new way for its readers to experience the world's best adult magazine," the company said in a statement. "Reimagined for the preferred consumption of content today by consumers, the digital version of Penthouse Magazine will combine and convert everything readers know and love about the print magazine experience to the power of a digital experience."


Penthouse magazine
Source: Penthouse magazine

As part of the move, Penthouse has shuttered its magazine division in New York, moving all operations to its Los Angeles headquarters. Subscribers, the magazine says, will receive instructions on how to convert their accounts.

"Penthouse Magazine will continue to be published in print during the transition to digital. No specific date to stop print publication of our flagship magazine has been set," said Ezra Shashoua, CFO of FriendFinder Networks, which owns the magazine.

The move comes just three months after one-time arch rival Playboy announced sweeping changes to its print magazine. December was the last print issue that featured nude models, with Pamela Anderson being the last woman to shed her clothes for the magazine.

While recent Penthouse circulation figures are not available, the magazine has been struggling for several years. In September 2013, its publisher went bankrupt. At the time, the company (whose holdings also include the AdultFriendFinder website) said it had not turned a profit since 2008. It was cleared to exit bankruptcy court three months later.

Penthouse itself was bought by FriendFinder in 2004 after it filed for bankruptcy.

Given the rise in popularity of adult content on the Internet, adult magazines on the whole have largely been relegated to the sidelines of the adult entertainment world. But 30 years ago, they were one of the industry's highest-profile presences in the mainstream world.

The September 1984 issue of Penthouse, in fact, is one of the most famous — and infamous — issues of any magazine ever to hit newsstands. When founder/publisher Bob Guccione printed nude pictures of Vanessa Williams, the reigning Miss America at the time, people couldn't buy it fast enough. The issue sold 5.3 million copies — the second highest ever for a U.S. magazine.

It became a collectible, since it played such a key role in the scandal that followed. Unfortunately, the issue's centerfold was the first appearance of Traci Lords, who turned out to be 16 years old at the time, making anyone in possession of the magazine at risk of owning child pornography.

It's unlikely to achieve that sort of notoriety again, especially when it must compete with so many other online magazines, many of which are free. But company officials say closing down the print edition to focus on digital is a strategic necessity.

"This move will keep Penthouse competitive in the future and will seamlessly combine our unmatched pictorial features and editorial content with our video and broadcast offerings," FriendFinder Networks CEO Jonathan Buckheit said in a statement.