As the CEO of Playboy Enterprises, one of Forbes' 100 Most Powerful Women In The World — and, oh yeah, daughter of Hugh — Christie Hefner's perspective on the media industry — and life, really — is unlike yours, ours or anyone else's. Mediabistro.com managing editor, media news Dylan Stableford chatted with Christie during the 2006 American Magazine Conference in Phoenix, Arizona (she was the chair of that, too) about magazines, Playboy, Penthouse, the venerable Playboy brand and what it's like to hang out at the Mansion with Dad and all of his robes.
mediabistro.com: What is your average media day like?
Christie Hefner: I read four newspapers — the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times. I read Financial Times online. I don't read blogs regularly, unless someone directs me to them. But I do blog for the Huffington Post.
A big part of this conference is based on the theme of magazines "going beyond the page" and Playboy has clearly been adept at this, with all of its brand extensions. But is it realistic to think other publishers, particularly smaller magazines, can emulate what you do?
Online — absolutely. It's not realistic to think they can emulate what we do in other areas, at least in scale. We have a $700 million retail business — that's not the template for most publishers. But I think connecting your magazine brand to other mediums — that's extremely important.
What is Playboy's next brand extension?
We're looking at London and Macao to do the same thing we've done in Las Vegas. We've already launched a Sirius channel. And we have a casino club. It's the basic idea of bringing the brand experience, and lifestyle experience, to new territories.
Under its new ownership, Penthouse appears to be transforming itself into more of a competitor to Playboy than they've been in the recent past. They hired away Diane Silberstein from Playboy, they just threw a "Meet the Media" party in New York. Do you feel any pressure?
No. If you look at history, five years, 10 years decade to decade, there's no comparison. The breadth of what Playboy does just isn't comparable. I've been at this business far too long to feel that pressure. We just move ahead.
How often do you get to the Mansion?
Hmm. Well, I'd say every few months. Maybe something like eight times a year. We were at the Mansion for Halloween last year, and I must say, it is the party. There's nothing else that compares to it. You should try to go if you can.
How much has been expressed to you about the chain of succession if your father retires?
The company's his. We went through that process. Our roles are well defined. Creatively, he's training [all of] us to understand what the brand is, how it should be represented.
Will he ever retire?
He's said, basically, he loves what he does, and he's going to do it as long as he's able to. So, no, I don't think so.
[Dylan Stableford is mediabistro.com's managing editor, media news. He can be reached at dylan AT mediabistro DOT com.]