In 2016, we wanted to embody the spirit of Oxygen's multicultural millennial brand through a positive, inspiring digital franchise. Having recently launched a pop culture digital vertical, we aimed to create a special series that would give Oxygen a distinct voice in the young multicultural landscape. We launched In Progress 52, a franchise that highlights women in a wide variety of fields – from activism to fashion, from engineering to the Paralympic games.
Throughout 2016, Oxygen digital has highlighted one outstanding woman every week in a series called In Progress 52 – that's 52 weeks, 52 women.
To carry out the mandate, we assigned our team of freelance writers, photographers, and video editors to find great subjects and create compelling content on a weekly basis.
Our criteria for In Progress 52 was simple. Each woman required a substantial social media presence. She needed an impressive record of achievement as well as a message of empowerment; for example, we didn't just want to interview a good musician with a lot of followers – instead, we interviewed the likes of Uniiqu3, the first female artist to make waves in the underground genre Jersey Club. Further, the subject needed to contribute to the diversity of the overall series in terms of racial and ethnic background, as well as field of interest. This is an important reflection of Oxygen's multicultural audience and the changing face of women in the workplace.
Our interviews were in-depth, covering the subjects' work, personal stories, and words of inspiration. Most of our stories had deep political underpinnings. While we skewed positive and celebratory, we were unafraid to tackle difficult subjects like gender and racial inequality. In our interview with cosmetic scientist Florence Adepoju, for example, we wrote extensively about her feelings about the dearth of black women in STEM careers, and what can be done to make changes in the field.
We are proud of all of our fascinating subjects, from Young Adult author Jenny Han and makeup artist Deepica Mutyala, to more arcane picks like taxidermist Amber Maykut and transgender vogue instructor Leiomy Maldonado. A major standout, however, is our piece about Haben Girma, the first deaf-blind graduate from Harvard Law School and a White House Champion of Change who was personally honored by President Obama. We spent the day shooting Haben as we wandered around Times Square, taking stunning original photography and capturing her story in an in-depth manner. Our goal was not to sensationalize her disability, but to treat Haben as she truly is: a brilliant woman who has fought for equal access in a world that is too hesitant – or perhaps too ignorant - to give it to her.
To promote the content, we worked hand in hand with Oxygen's press, social media, talent, and on-air teams to reach vast audiences. A number of In Progress subjects (including Haben Girma) were featured both on digital and on-air.
The series was a success, growing 149 percent in just the first three months since launch. The series also garnered a sponsorship from GoDaddy. Socially, the videos racked up hundreds of thousands of views, as well as positive sentiment from our audience urging us to continue the coverage.
Apart from metric successes, the franchise was a qualitative hit. Haben Girma, who was one of our favorite subjects, told us: "I read disability stories all the time, and this one can't even compare to the others… This story is going to encourage more people to think about how they can make their communities more inclusive. And to find confidence from within."
We sought to truly understand our subjects, not to sensationalize them, and to change hearts and minds as a result. Haben's statement truly affirmed our goal.