A company best known for its posts on Instagram announced on Tuesday that it will try to capitalize on young people’s growing use of social media for news by teaming with a well known TikTok creator for political coverage this year.
The company, Betches, said it will partner with the creator Vitus “V” Spehar a.k.a. @underthedesknews on a political podcast called “American Fever Dream.” Spehar rose to prominence on TikTok after covering the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol and now posts daily news to her over 3 million followers on the app.
Betches was founded as a blog in 2011 by three college students, Sami Sage, Aleen Dreksler and Jordana Abraham. Over the past decade the brand has expanded into a multiplatform media company perhaps best known for its significant Instagram presence, including its primary Instagram account with over 9.2 million followers
The brand also hosts a robust podcast network with over a dozen podcasts covering pop culture, reality TV, true crime, dating and other topics. Last year, the company was acquired by LBG Media the British publisher of LADbible, which operates several large social media accounts including UNILAD and LADbible. Betches’ primary audience is young millennial and Gen Z women.
Betches co-founder Sage said the company intends to cover the U.S. presidential election across its news channels, including a news-driven Instagram account with over 616,000 followers, a newsletter and potentially live events. Betches plans to cover the Democratic National Convention this year; Sage also hosts a daily news podcast called “Morning Announcements.” A Betches spokesperson said that though the brand isn’t shy about leaning liberal, the company will cover all news, whether it’s Republicans or Democrats, noting that they frequently report on Republican lawmakers and candidates. Spehar is a former Republican.
“Traditional journalism is significantly weaker and harder to access than ever and people are spending more time on their phones being fed news algorithmically,” Sage said. “We’re sort of in that medium space between influencer and media company. We use a level of personality driven media … and we don’t really see as much of a barrier between us, the company and the people we’re trying to reach.”
Betches doesn’t disseminate news in the way most journalistic outlets do; the brand leans hard into memes and humor. That may open it up to criticism that it’s not a serious news outlet, but Sage said the company aims to communicate news in a way that’s easy for young people to digest. Betches also isn’t neutral in the way it covers news. The company has a strong liberal slant. Amanda Duberman, Betches’ senior director of special projects, said the company is “not shy about our bias and what our beliefs are.”
Spehar said it was Betches’ commitment to delivering news in nontraditional ways such as through memes, TikTok videos and personality-driven podcasts that made her want to work with the company. “So much of legacy media is losing journalists, they’re shutting down entire departments,” Spehar said, “and Betches feels like a place that has caught its stride and is running toward something rather than holding the pieces together.”
Duberman said there’s a growing hunger for political content on social media, particularly since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022. That has changed the interests of Betches’ audience, she said.
“You could make viral content about a Wisconsin Supreme Court race in 2023,” she said. “You couldn’t do that in 2020. We’re really paying close attention to the ballot initiative in Florida. Four years ago, people would have been sort of like confused about why we would focus on that. Now I think it’s a full-court press among people that care about reproductive rights.”