Playgirl shutters mag for online only

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imageAh, the memories of exploring being gay as a teen by flipping through the pages of a borrowed Playgirl. Remember, this was before the Internet.

And apparently, the publisher of the 35-year-old magazine can’t beat back the influence of getting your fill of nude shots online and is shuttering the magazine for women but loved by gay men. Blue Horizon Media, which goes more hardcore on its various web sites, wanted more skin in the pages while the editors wanted more issues between the pages and advertisers, well, they seemed not to want any of it.

The women’s dreams crashed when Blue Horizon Media, which also puts out hard-core magazines, announced it was shutting Playgirl. The last issue, dated January/February 2009, recently arrived on newsstands.

Although the Playgirl Web site is still running, the graphic content is geared more toward gay men. None of the magazine’s editors are involved.

Playgirl’s passing certainly will not be lamented as would the death of a more respected, or even a mildly respected, magazine. Yet for its writers and fans, something tangible has been lost in its closure.

In fact, the magazine’s web site features four photos of guys who do porn — gay port, that is, with a warning that material inside is explicit. No doubt.

Playgirl, you might know, started 35 years ago as a feminist response to Playboy and Penthouse. It had a niche, selling 600,000 copies per issue in three-dozen countries and eventually paid attention to its gay fans. The end, though, seems a little sad.

The editors strove to publish articles that were saucy but relevant. They printed articles about a campaign to take toxic chemicals out of cosmetics and about problems with Amsterdam’s red-light district. To her delight, Ms. Caldwell landed interviews with Jack LaLanne and Dolly Parton.

A do-it-yourself ethic bloomed. The magazine had no marketing or public relations budget, so its editors sought to revive the Playgirl brand themselves, throwing parties at a Lower East Side bar. After Blue Horizon denied a request to finance a blog, Ms. Collins built one herself, starting it on WordPress, a free platform.

Their efforts, the women said, got virtually no support; indeed, their higher-ups, all of them men, usually resisted their push to give the magazine editorial heft.

Early in 2008, warning signs surfaced. While newsstands sales were up, Ms. Caldwell said, so were production costs. In the spring, subscription cards suddenly vanished; the staff members were told it was a cost cutting measure. Then they were told that issues would come out bimonthly. In July, a subscriber wrote to complain about a letter from Blue Horizon saying that Playgirl was no longer in print.

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