To compensate for declining readership and profits, Chicago-based Playboy Enterprises Inc. is heading back to school to boost the bottom line in one of its biggest expansion efforts in years. Riding a wave of renewed popularity among consumers around the globe, Hugh Hefner’s Playboy empire is set to launch a sexy social networking site dedicated solely to college students, its latest online venture as it tries to reinvigorate its stagnant finances. The site, currently in beta, is called Playboy U and has similar features to those found on Facebook. “This is one brand that is relevant to 18 through 81-year-olds,” said Scott Stephen, executive vice president of operations for Playboy’s entertainment division. “We’re looking at this as a way to introduce and escort someone through their adult life.”
“It’s a very lucrative market,” said Michael Kelman, senior media analyst at Susquehanna Financial Group. “The college kids, they’re going to be better-educated and have higher disposable incomes. (But) it’s been a very, very tough audience to grab.” Although Playboy U bars nudity, the site leaves little to the imagination with pictures from the mansion’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” party and message topics such as “What Do You Think About Penis Enlargement” and “How Many People Have You Slept With? To Lie or Not to Lie.” The site has instituted a college-only policy, which bars anyone without an e-mail address ending in .edu from joining; additionally Playboy U says it will boot any university faculty, staff or alumni or other non-students that it discovers on the site. “Your little brother can’t get in. Your little sister can’t get in. Nor can your mother and father,” Stephen said.