NBC News is betting on a handful of diversity-focused verticals to broaden its digital audience.
In recent years, the outlet has launched NBC Latino run by Sandra Lilley; NBC Asian America, led by Traci Lee; NBC Out, the company’s LGBTQ vertical, headed by Brooke Sopelsa, and NBC BLK, a vertical focusing on black America, run by Amber Payne.
Sitting in a conference room in NBC’s 30 Rockefeller Center in New York, the leaders of those verticals — all of whom are women — underscored the importance of their position and mission.
“So often there is that perception of that in order to be leading something, there has to be a man at the top,” said Lee. “We’re able to have our voices heard without having to fight to have our voices heard in the first place.”
Lilley, whose vertical was launched in 2012, turned to her mission at the company.
“When you look at numbers in the country, you would say, ‘oh there are so many Hispanics, Asian Americans, more people saying they are LGBTQ , African-Americans, and yet sometimes, we feel that their voices are filtered in a certain way,” she said. “Sometimes the way stories are framed…they are framed as if people write about us instead of for us and by us. I think it makes a difference when you frame a story from our lens.”
Lilley, whose group recently launched “NBC Latino 20” spotlighting 20 achievers during Hispanic Heritage month, explained that she sees the world through a bilingual lens for her readers. This includes addressing issues from immigration and literature to pop culture, fashion and beauty and politics, through essays, videos and articles.
“I want to change the way people see Latinos,” said.
NBC News Digital executive editor Catherine Kim offered:“People sometimes don’t talk about identity openly but yet it’s one of the fundamental things to all of us. But then you sort of scratch the surface with someone and especially because you represent and you are in those communities, you are able to get yeses far more often than others do when the public figure, leader, celebrity is also aware of your content and also respects what you guys have been doing.”
Each vertical has a team of about two to four people working full-time with a network of contributors outside and inside NBC.
Lee, who heads up NBC’s Asian-America site, noted that NBC News’ influence has helped the verticals grab big name interviews, something other outlets can’t necessarily say.
Lee used Hillary Clinton as an example, explaining that Clinton published a letter to the Asian-American community during her presidential campaign last year.
“That was the first time a presidential candidate has addressed the Asian-American community in that way.” Lee said, explaining that her team also has tapped into issues specific to her community. She said one example was recording a series of Asian Americans saying: “I love you” to their parents. That show of affection is less common in the community — and the impact of watching it was “lovely,” Lee noted.
The job, however, is not without challenges, as each editor is charged with addressing all the subcategories of their communities.
“I want this site to cover the full LGBT community,” said Sopelsa, who described herself as a “thirtysomething white cis-gendered lesbian.”
She set out to represent the full community because so many LGBT sites “cater to gay, white men.”
Payne, who runs NBC Blk, explained that it’s her “responsibility to find and channel voices” from across the black community.
“It’s not really just to biracial women and black women,” she said of her site. “We’ve done some great stories on black women when it comes to the election, black women in tech, a whole range of things, but on the flip side, but as black women we are also very concerned about our black men, whether that be our brothers or our sons, so there is this natural feeling for people of color and elevating those voices.”