Tab Media Receives Backing from Controversial Investors

Rupert Murdoch Photo credit: David Shankbone

Tab Media has received an investment of $6m from investors including a majority injection from the Rupert Murdoch- backed News Corp. Self-proclaimed as ‘anti-establishment’, the controversial student news outlet, founded by Cambridge students in 2009, was overjoyed by the backing.

Other investors in the deal include the London-based Knight Ventures, Balderton Capital, with previous key investments including gambling organisations and Bebo, and entrepreneur-supporting Downing Ventures.

The Tab currently operates in both London and New York, keen to expand their US presence, with an aim of appealing to an audience born ‘after the 1990s’, with over 70% of their revenue coming from sponsored stories by youth-orientated companies such as Spotify, the rest from standard advertising from similar companies, like Netflix.Currently, they receive 50 million views of their content a year (unverified), rising upon year.

With over 2300 writers per year contributing to articles, the format of the organisation relies on centralised editors based in campuses, with the appeal of future job prospects at their London office a key incentive. Writers are encouraged to source their own stories, with the key focus of encouraging shares, financial incentives being offered for a specific number.

Often compared to Buzzfeed, or similar youth-directed press, the outlet thrives only in online format, targeting university-age students as its predominant focus, but has received a fair share of criticism from its development, often as a result of its broad spread of writers, including misreporting and the nationally-publicised “Rear of the Year” competition, despite being keen to shake this image.

It has often been accused of exploitation, manipulating its writers without proper remuneration, according to the National Union of Journalists, and former contributors, despite this pay-for-shares approach. Executive Editor Joshi Herrmann defended the approach in 2014, suggesting that its authors did not ask to be paid, and received guidance in media law and preparation for future careers in journalism as a form of remuneration.

News Corp. has a chequered, and controversial past in the United Kingdom. Based in New York, it sat as the world’s fourth-largest group of media outlets in 2014 (revenue).

In 2011, the publication News of the World was shut down after allegations of phone-hacking, including trying to access former prime-minister Gordon Brown’s voicemails, medical records and bank accounts. Allegations released by The Guardian also listed the exploitation with intent to access or use private details, including 91 PIN codes and 4332 names/ partial names, including British victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and family of victims of the London 7/7 bombings.

After this series of scandals. due to concern by its shareholders, its assets were divided. News International, the British branch of newspaper publishers, currently owns The Sun and The Times. Concerns were raised about alleged tax avoidance by Murdoch’s ventures in the lead-up to the 2017 General Election, the Labour Party scrutinising the contribution of larger companies and corporations to the HMRC.

As the scope of the company continues to grow, this investment will surely be a welcome bonus, as the average readership continues to grow, and spread from campus to campus. It remains to be seen how the group will expand beyond its university basis.