Speak from your heart. Write what you know. If you’re passionate about the topic then your audience will pick up on it. If you’re bored then they’ll know it.

This is advice that I’ve been giving writers for just over eight years now, the time I’ve been the (titles are dumb) one in charge of Hipsters of the Coast. I would be remiss if I didn’t take my own advice when writing today’s article, the 561st I’ve written in the 11 years I’ve been a part of this amazing place. So today I’m going to write a bit about what exactly it is that makes our little Magic: the Gathering blog amazing, why the iteration of the site now coming to a close is ending, and what the next chapter (yes there will be a next chapter) has in store for everyone.

If you’re here, then odds are you’re already aware of the fact that Hipsters of the Coast isn’t exactly like other Magic content sites out there. For starters, we’re not here to push product or support a tournament series. So we don’t have the same agenda as outlets like StarCityGames, Channel Fireball, CoolStuffInc., TCGPlayer, or Card Kingdom, to name a few. That isn’t to detract from any of the content published by those sites. The writers at every single one are talented and produce great content, but the publisher has a specific business model tied to card sales and as we’ve seen in recent waves of writers being laid off, there isn’t much space to deviate from that revenue stream.

In the early days, Hipsters was a community. All of the writers came from the same local game shop, which perhaps ironically closed the doors on its original location this year (don’t worry, they expanded into a bigger place down the block, they’re doing great). If you wanted to write for the site you just had to find one of people already writing and ask. It was as simple as that. It wasn’t ground-breaking writing but it was a very cool local scene, with some very talented writers, skilled Magic players, and just all-around great people.

But even in the early days, Hipsters was about not just the strategies of playing Magic, or the latest previews (leaked or official), but it was about the lifestyle of playing the game. Looking back on those first few years, several articles really standout as having defined this voice:

  1. Kings Games is the Worst Place to PTQ by Matt Jones – This piece contributed greatly to Hipsters gaining more of a national audience and brought us into direct contact with our satirical namesake when Wizards of the Coast investigated the conditions we reported. In the ensuing years, Wizards would improve the standards to which it held local game stores in a variety of ways.
  2. Trans, Not Special by Jess Stirba – I can’t think of a more impactful article, not just at Hipsters of the Coast, but in the entire archive of Magic: the Gathering writing, that is more important to how this site, and how I personally approach the topics of diversity and inclusion in our community. While plenty has changed in 11 years, not everything has, and the fight for trans rights is still one of, if not the most important civil rights struggles of our day.
  3. Crackgate by Rich Stein – The Sidney Blair phenomenon was one of the Magic community’s most “mainstream media” events and it only served to reinforce negative stereotypes about the community. This article was an early start on Hipsters’ voice being defined as one that took community issues seriously and put them at the forefront of our content.
  4. The Imaginary Magic Hygiene Problem by Shawn Massak – This is easily one of the most controversial articles the site ever published, to this day, including all the Travis Woo bullshit. Shawn’s unique experiences having worked in retail and with the homeless gave him a perspective on a topic that previously I had never seen framed as a topic of social justice and equity, but here it was. Shawn’s writing was incredibly bold, and it was just as bold of our then Editor-in-Chief, Hunter Slaton, to back Shawn and publish the piece.

These articles all came out before I was in charge, which leads me to a quick interlude of thanks to Hunter Slaton, our first Editor-in-Chief, who brought his industry experience, trove of wisdom, and all of the encouragement and joy in the world to Hipsters of the Coast. Hunter moved on to bigger and better things, like raising his amazing family and doing fantastic work at Meta, but before all that he helped shape what I’d like to think is the world’s most unique Magic content site.

If you want to learn more about Hunter, check out Southern Exposure, Hunter’s article about his time in Antarctica. To this day I still go back to it and recommend it to my writers as a sample of how to establish your voice and tell a story that hooks your audience and doesn’t let them go while also sharing something very personal about yourself. That might not seem like the kind of writing that applies to a Magic website, but as I’ve said we’re not a normal Magic website.

So what is Hipsters of the Coast then? It’s a place for content that’s for people who are part of the Magic community. There’s an important distinction that needs to be made between content that is about playing Magic and content that is for people who play Magic. Content about playing the game is covered by draft guides, sideboarding guides, deck lists, and the like.

Content for people who play Magic includes articles about why planning out your meals is more important than planning out your sideboard strategies at a Pro Tour. It’s articles about the real-world historical parallels between our cultures and the cultures of the Magic multiverse. And, it’s articles about the people, not just the game.

After some time we had our audience, and it was big. In 2017 and 2018 we topped 1.5M page views. In 2019 we cleared 2.5M. We outgrew our original sponsorship agreement with a small local Magic site called CastHaven and replaced it with a more lucrative deal with Card Kingdom. With money in our pockets we started paying for content and bringing on more writers. We even had a content manager. We were entirely sure how best to scale the operation, but we knew it was time to figure it out.

And then the Pandemic.

Covid was hard on everyone across this industry. Wizards had to suspend in-person events. Stores with incredibly thin profit margins had to shutter their doors. Everything came to a grinding halt. And then everything exploded. People were stuck at home. No restaurants. No movies. No vacations. Let’s play games! Sales skyrocketed. And then it ended. Go back to the office, go back to your work, go back to Disneyland. And the sales plummeted.

Our plans to expand the site never really got off the ground. And then one by one, the active managing owners of Hipsters of the Coast had to step away. A new career opportunity. A new family and job changes. We had grown the content in anticipation of revenue growth that didn’t come to fruition and then the money was tighter. And then Card Kingdom decided they needed to move in a different direction, and we were left without our primary source of revenue.

And so I made a hard decision and told all our writers that effective today, December 8th, Hipsters would stop publishing paid content. I make the distinction of paid because I’m still here, writing this, article 561, having never collected a single penny for my trouble. But I get to own the site (or at least part of it) so that’s something. And I get to make the hard decisions. And so I’m left to decide, what comes next?

And so we begin again. In the coming weeks I will be reorganizing the site under new management (I’m not going anywhere, but there will be some new faces) and a new business model that relies less on advertising partnerships and more on diverse revenue streams and more diverse content. In some ways, this hiatus is a blessing in disguise because it gives me, and the new management team, an opportunity to review a decade of content publishing lessons, and forge a new path forwards for Hipsters.

I wish I could tell you more. We have some really cool ideas. If you have some cool ideas too feel free to send them over. While daily content as we currently know it isn’t coming back, there will still be content. Ryan Hay will still be covering breaking news, because we don’t want to leave anyone in the dark while we’re dark. I will be providing weekly updates on the site’s progress. More content will return in January in some form or another so stay tuned.

Rich Stein (He/Him) is the President (what a dumb title) of Hipsters of the Coast (a slightly less dumb website).

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.