On Friday, 100 news sites tweeted about the 2020 election, and 99 didn’t declare Joe Biden the winner. But all it took was one: Pop Crave.
The popular Twitter account (and news site) known for updates on pop stars was one of the first outlets to declare Biden had won the 2020 presidential election. Taking a cue from Decision Desk HQ, which made the call 30 minutes earlier, Pop Crave tweeted, “BREAKING: Joe Biden had been elected the 46th President of the United States. Via @DecisionDeskHQ.” This celebrity news account for pop stans beat all cable news channels, the Associated Press and the New York Times in projecting Biden’s win.
“At a certain point, it just felt like enough. This has been five days, and this guy” — possibly referring to Steve Kornacki — “is still pointing at a map,” says Drew Howard, an editor at Pop Crave, speaking on behalf of the team.
Howard repeatedly emphasized that Pop Crave isn’t a political news or polling site. Really, it does very minimal original reporting. It’s known for tweeting juicy anecdotes from reported celebrity profiles, Instagram comments and chart data. It was only after Decision Desk HQ called the election (in partnership with Vox) that Pop Crave followed suit. “People are acting like Pop Crave broke it. Really, a lot of [digital] media sources were saying the same thing. We said it with confidence,” Howard says.
The political tweet from an account known for “Baby Shark” news may actually be how many people first learned Biden would be president.
If they didn’t hear it from Pop Crave, maybe they heard it from Gaga Daily, a Lady Gaga fan site, which tweeted a similar announcement shortly after Decision Desk HQ.
“I didn’t include [Decision Desk HQ] in the tweet and just said ‘Joe Biden has been elected as the new U.S. president,’ a representative for Gaga Daily tells me over email. But it was “met with backlash from people who thought it was too early,” and the tweet was deleted until the results were official.
So why would update accounts comment at all when they could just keep tweeting that Miley Cyrus confirmed “Plastic Hearts” will be a rock album?
It’s part of a surprisingly savvy strategy, and a deeper understanding of how young people get their news today. “It’s not the first time Pop Crave has dabbled in politics,” Howard says. But over election week, pop stars were vocal about their political beliefs, pausing new record promotions and live performances to publicize voting information and endorsements. Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande and Lizzo were among the many artists to publicly support Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. This informs what stans talk about and ultimately what Pop Crave covers. “We don’t want to be thought of as a political space at all. We only jump in when we feel something is trending so much that we can’t ignore it,” Howard says.
The election tweet took off in part due to the pure audaciousness of a stan account scooping the New York Times. “People took [the tweet] more seriously because Pop Crave was not giving you 24/7 election coverage for five days straight. People went to the page because they were fatigued,” Howard says. This was, after all, the week in which a dearth of celebrity content turned MSNBC personalities like Kornacki and Jacob Soboroff into sex icons.
But, more importantly, teens and young people aren’t turning to establishment media for political news the way their parents do. They’re getting critical updates from Snapchat stories, Reddit forums, TikTok videos and Twitter stan accounts. So it matters that Pop Crave snapped with a timely announcement when CNN, as stans would say, “flopped.”
“We don’t want to take credit for being ahead of CNN, but it was nice to see people acknowledging a source that wasn’t one of these huge, ratings-hungry networks,” Howard says. “If anything, it was a reflection of alternative media… and something much bigger than Pop Crave.”