By Sarah Gray
January 2, 2018

Playboy may stop publishing a print version of its once-revolutionary magazine amid tumbling readership, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

Private equity firm Rizvi Traverse, which owns a majority of the company, instead wants to focus on the licensing the Playboy name—along with its widely recognized bunny logo—and brand partnerships, according to the report.

“We want to focus on what we call the ‘World of Playboy’ which is so much larger than a small, legacy print publication,” Ben Kohn, a managing partner at Rizvi Traverse and CEO of Playboy Enterprises, told WSJ. “We plan to spend 2018 transitioning it from a media business to a brand-management company.”

Rizvi Traverse gained majority control of Playboy in 2011 when it helped the magazine’s founder, Hugh Hefner, take the company private. The deal, according to WSJ, included keeping the print magazine, which first published in 1953, while Hefner was alive.

He died late last year.

Playboy Enterprises grew out of Playboy magazine, known for its centerfold nude photos of models and actresses. During its heyday, the magazine also published notable fiction and non-fiction from writers such as Ray Bradbury and Margaret Atwood.

In 2016, Playboy magazine stopped publishing nude images of women, but brought them back in 2017.

Though no final decision has been made about the print magazine, its circulation has declined for years. Meanwhile, Playboy magazine “has lost as much as $7 million annually in recent years,” WSJ reported.

“Historically, we could justify the losses because of the marketing value, but you also have to be forward thinking,” Kohn told WSJ. “I’m not sure that print is necessarily the best way to communicate to our consumer going forward.”

A spokesman for Playboy Enterprises had no further comment. Fortune also contacted Brunswick Group, the PR firm representing Rizvi Traverse, and will update as necessary.


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