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Cooper Hefner's new media venture is 'Fifty Shades' meets BuzzFeed

Updated 4:47 PM ET, Thu April 25, 2019

New York (CNN Business) - The late Hugh Hefner's youngest son is getting ready to strike out on his own with the launch of his own media company.

The 27-year-old Cooper Hefner recently announced that he's taking on the world of digital media with Hefner Media Corporation -- which will include a website called HefPost -- capitalizing on a family name that has become nearly synonymous with adult content. And yes, HefPost will have plenty of that, in addition to news, videos and events.

"It's a personal treat knowing I am the age of my dad when he launched Playboy," he told CNN Business. "It's a connection that's very special to me."

While Hefner draws his inspiration from Playboy's mission, he hopes the new venture will appeal to a new generation of readers and encourage different perspectives about sex. Hefner calls the platform "a buffet of different content."

But Hefner, who has been serving as the chief of global partnerships of Playboy Enterprises, is not abandoning the brand made famous by his father just yet. He is transitioning to a board role while he gets Hefner Media Corporation off the ground.

Hefner talked to CNN Business after the official announcement and elaborated on his vision for HefPost and the importance of creating what he calls "healthy adult content" that celebrates sex.

The answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.

So, why now?

It's the desire to build something that does not exist. It's vastly different to manage a working machine that has been around for 60 plus years. And while I intend to be involved in a different capacity as an executive in the years to come, it just made the most amount of sense to actually dive a little bit deeper into assembling a new team and also really paying a bit of attention to the entrepreneurial muscles that I really haven't necessarily exercised in the last year and really actually wanted to.

Will there be any connection to Playboy?

I think it is synergetic with what the company has successfully done. [Playboy] was setting out to facilitate a conversation around attitudes focused on sex and sexuality as well as civil rights and civil liberties. I really felt like there was a hole in the marketplace as Playboy was defining its strategy for 2019 and moving forward I consistently saw a hole that was missing, and that hole was a really a content platform that normalized sex as well as encourage different perspectives.

HefPost is going to be a media and digital company that's going to feature adult content. How will it stand out among the others?

My perspective is to build a platform that does have synergies with Vice, and has synergies with the New York Times, and synergies with the Atlantic, that is sophisticated in its nature and is thoughtful about its lifestyle content and cares about journalistic integrity and actually has an arm of content that is specifically focused on healthy adult content. That doesn't exist today.

What is really important to me is to make sure that the human connection and romanticism are celebrated when that content is shared. I also think that it's fascinating because while we live in a society that seems to be hypersexualized, we seem to be at an incredibly prude point, where people are engaging in adult content but are not doing it in a way that would suggest that many are proud of the content that they're engaging in.

So it's sort of like the millennial version of Playboy or maybe BuzzFeed and "Fifty Shades of Grey" combined?

I think those are all, to some extent, appropriate comparisons.

"Fifty Shades of Grey" was somewhat taboo but everybody was reading it. Playboy was similar. And now you get to bring it to millennials, right?

Absolutely. The philosophy and the values. Because the times may have changed, but to your point, "Fifty Shades of Grey" and the success of that specifically with women is an indication that people do want to engage in content and find ways to celebrate the act that is responsible for the reason we're here.

It must be tricky, running a site with the strong editorial goals you have, side by side with adult content on the site. How do you find that balance in a time of Me Too?

It's been pretty evident that the conversation around Me Too and the conversation around inappropriate behavior in Hollywood and in Washington DC and in other industries around the world connect to power and sex being used in an incredibly unhealthy way to manipulate somebody who is or was a subordinate and who did not want to be in that particular circumstance. And to suggest that sex should be put in the closet or should not be talked about because of the conversation around male and female roles and gender identity and the power dynamics between the sexes is absurd.

So my take is that the Me Too conversation and the events that have happened around that movement, while they are incredibly positive, there's also sentiment in that particular movement that is very anti-sex and it's really important that a line is not drawn in the sand and there is a battle of the narrative that is drawn, stating this is a male versus female issue, when in actuality it's not. This is an issue that directly connects to people who are in power that take advantage of the place they're in and are inappropriate with those who they should not be inappropriate with.

How much is there a desire for you personally to break out on your own and be less identified as Hugh Hefner's son and more as Cooper Hefner?

I don't necessarily compare myself. It sounds silly. I certainly think about my father constantly, but I don't lie awake at night comparing myself to my father. And truth be told, I have so much admiration and respect and love for my father and my sister and believe in what they spent their lives building and fighting for. And they were responsible for a business and a brand that challenges people to think differently and encourage people to think more freely and live more freely. And those values are instilled in me and that will certainly carry on to whatever I spend my life doing.

You changed Playboy's motto from "Entertainment for Men" to "Entertainment for All." How do you see it for HefPost?

I see it being a platform that is for both men and women and that will be the driving force of the brand. When we were managing the content offering at Playboy, the conversations were, how do we make sure that we are encouraging and allowing people to own their particular sexual appetite while inviting a conversation around beauty and standards changing in real time. And people were afraid to have that conversation. And that was interesting to me and I will tell you that on this particular platform, we will not be afraid to have that conversation.


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