An interview with Voices of Color creator Manny Ocbazghi
INSIDER’s Voices of Color (VOC) is an editorial vertical that explores the issues that matter to communities of color through politics, education, entertainment, and all other aspects of culture.
Since its inception in July 2018, VOC has amassed more than 300 million views, people have seen more than 230 million minutes of VOC content, and follower growth has skyrocketed to more than 675,000 followers.
In the past year, the team has added a script-writing fellow, the videos have engaged celebrities and public figures like Chance the Rapper and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and the stories have sparked countless conversations on social media.
We recently sat down with Manny Ocbazghi, a video producer at INSIDER and the creator of Voices of Color, to reflect on VOC’s extraordinary year of growth and find out what’s next for the vertical. Here’s our conversation.
Take us through your background and how you got started at INSIDER. What brought you to INSIDER as a video producer?
After I graduated from The Ohio State University in 2014, I spent a year working as a freelance camera operator and as a production assistant on some B-movie sets. Just as I was about to head to LA to pursue a career in the film industry, my older brother came across a BI post that announced they were hiring and sent it to me. I applied on a whim since I had already purchased my flight to LA, and luckily, I was offered the job. I started as an intern for the Business Insider video team in October 2015.
“There are countless thought leaders and industry experts who are also people of color, so why not interview them and better reflect what our society looks like?”
How and why did you decide to create Voices of Color?
The idea for Voices of Color came when I noticed that a lot of the people we interviewed were older white males. They were all experts and adequate, but I felt we needed to diversify who we put on screen. There are countless thought leaders and industry experts who are also people of color, so why not interview them and better reflect what our society looks like?
I created a Google Sheet for my supervisor and I to collect names of people of color we wished to interview, and a lot of those interviews came to fruition. Sometime later, I noticed that a decent amount of news outlets had verticals dedicated to covering content important to communities of color, and I didn't want INSIDER to be left behind on that front. I knew that our video team could do a better job.
As a media company, we obviously want to grow our audience. I believe that part of growing an audience means diversifying it as well. I pitched the idea for the VOC page, originally titled HUE, to my managers and our global editor-in-chief Nicholas Carlson. They loved it, and a short time later we launched on Facebook.
What does a typical day at Insider Inc. look like for you?
Although I’m the page runner for VOC, I’m also a producer, so a decent chunk of my day is spent actually editing videos. Aside from that, I have daily meetings with managers and our distribution team on how we can maximize VOC’s reach.
How do you find subjects for new VOC features and videos?
My fellow (Doyin Oladipo) and I get in to the office in the morning and scour the internet for story ideas. We pitch stories on a huge range of topics so it can be a challenge to sift through it all. There are pockets of people of color on each social media platform (Black Twitter, for example), and a lot of ideas for stories start there. Outside of that, we look for entrepreneurs, restaurant owners, chefs, entertainers, etc., of color that people may not have heard of. If their profession and story are interesting enough, we go out and produce a feature for our audience.
What’s the coolest or most memorable experience you’ve had working on VOC?
We most recently produced a story on an arcade-bar-restaurant combo in Brooklyn. Their most famous sandwich is called the Nutella Burger, and the visuals on that story were pretty wild. Other memorable moments, albeit vain, were when Chance the Rapper and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shared our stories to their followers.
“Usually, things take time to grow, but we hit the ground running in a way I wasn’t expecting.”
What’s the most surprising thing that’s happened since VOC launched?
I was pleasantly surprised by how much engagement the vertical got at the onset, and it’s been growing ever since. Usually, things take time to grow, but we hit the ground running in a way I wasn’t expecting.
What’s next for Voices of Color? In the coming months, years? Can you share anything new that you’re working on?
In the future, I just want to keep growing and gaining followers. We’ve come along way but I still think there’s tons of growth left to go. I’m hoping to “showify” some of our existing video formats to skyrocket our engagement.
If you weren’t a video producer at INSIDER, what would you be doing?
I’d have gone to LA and done the stereotypical film career struggle. I’m really grateful to have moved to New York instead.