The first issue of Playboy magazine from December 1953.

Playboy is shuttering its print magazine.

The men’s magazine, launched at the end of 1953 by famed founder Hugh Hefner, said Wednesday that the economic disruptions from COVID-19, or coronavirus, were too much for its already strained print operations to bear, WWD can first report.

“Last week, as the disruption of the coronavirus pandemic to content production and the supply chain became clearer and clearer, we were forced to accelerate a conversation we’ve been having internally: the question of how to transform our U.S. print product,” Ben Kohn, ceo of Playboy Enterprises, wrote in an open letter posted to Medium. “We have decided that our Spring 2020 Issue, which arrives on U.S. newsstands and as a digital download this week, will be our final printed publication for the year in the U.S.”

Playboy will now operate on a “digital first publishing schedule,” the company said, including its famed Playmate shoots. But it does intend to bring some kind of a print product back into the fold next year, Kohn said in his note. Likely an occasional special edition.

“It’s no surprise that media consumption habits have been changing for some time – and while the stories we produce and the artwork we showcase is enjoyed by millions of people on digital platforms, our content in its printed form reaches the hands of only a fraction of our fans,” Kohn said.

Asked about layoffs due to the end of print, a Playboy spokeswoman said there were no changes expected “at this time.”

The magazine last year went to a quarterly printing schedule, after making a number of other changes to its editorial output, including reducing nudity and starting to transition its content away from being solely for a male reader and gaze — even a few days ago saying it would no longer dub a “Playmate of the year.” It also revamped its online presence and social media channels, appealing to a broader audience and building out a video channel and a live events business. All efforts over the last few years to modernize the brand, which had become something of a relic and seen a related effect on its reputation and business.

But Kohn said the Playboy business as a whole is currently strong and generates $3 billion in global consumer spend each year. Video subscriptions are up 30 percent year over year, social media engagement is up 50 percent in the last six months, and Playboy has acquired a direct-to-consumer commerce operation. 

“Over the past 66 years, we’ve become far more than a magazine,” the ceo added. “And sometimes you have to let go of the past to make room for the future.” 

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