Editor’s Note: Free content isn’t really free

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Lou Bloomfield. Photo: John Robinson. Lou Bloomfield. Photo: John Robinson.

Way back when Playboy started, Hugh Hefner expertly surfed the wave of a sexual and social revolution, selling cigarettes and Scotch via Mad Men-designed print adverts paired with corny profiles of topless coeds and Vargas girls. The setup made enough money to get him rich and to pay for 5,000-word interviews with Jim Brown on the white man’s burden or John Wayne on why hippies should be shot. Pick up a copy from 1972 at Ike’s Underground and you can read the debate over the Vietnam War or the legalization of marijuana in the letters’ section. It’s a trip.

The company hasn’t fared too well in the digital environment, and in 2011 Playboy Enterprises Inc. undertook a massive reorganization, slashing its staff by 75 percent and moving its headquarters to L.A. Licensing, not content, is the new name of the company’s topline/bottomline game, which may explain how it managed to name UVA the top party school in the country last year. While the sports at TJU aren’t up to snuff, the Google reporting explained, the sex and drinking life more than compensate.

Our UVA feature this week highlights a few things happening on Grounds that Playboy’s staff writers missed. Did they know, for instance, that the frats aren’t allowed to haze anymore or that undergrads are helping to eradicate whooping cough? Anyway, the piece about Lou Bloomfield’s MOOC “How Things Work” got me thinking. The prof spends 1,000 hours designing a class that draws 50,000 students to his virtual classroom, and he doesn’t get paid for it.

Meanwhile, down in the Bayou, The Times-Picayune, New Orleans’ longtime daily newspaper owned by the Newhouse family since 1962, announced that its tragic experiment to go digital had failed and that it would return to daily print production. During the about face, the company lost its content monopoly. Maybe we should update the whole “freedom isn’t free,” thing. Free isn’t even free. Can someone in Darden’s i.Lab run the topline/bottomline on that?

 

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