Taking the Tab: news site founder on how he got $4m from Rupert Murdoch – The Guardian

Jack Rivlin might have had a post-Glastonbury hangover complete with some leftover glitter, but that failed to deter media mogul Rupert Murdoch from investing millions in the Tab, the student news website he founded, after a 45-minute meeting.

“It was right after Glastonbury so we were nursing some pretty sore heads,” said Rivlin, 28. “I didn’t have any clean shoes so I borrowed some from a friend’s father, and we were covered in glitter. I knew news was something they value, so I printed out a hundred of our best stories. The message must have really appealed compared to other pitches that may be really technical.”

Some of those stories that impressed the owner of the Sun included Malia Obama’s decision to attend Harvard; a Cambridge student setting fire to a £20 note in front of a homeless man; and an interview with an Oxford Brookes student who kissed Cheryl Cole on New Years Eve.

Murdoch’s News Corp is the main investor behind $6m (£4.6m) of new funding raised by Tab Media. In return for its investment it has taken a minority stake in the venture, which runs the Tab and sister website babe – and Emma Tucker, the deputy editor of the Times, will sit on its board of directors.

The Tab was founded in 2009 in Cambridge and now has 80 local editions targeted at universities in the US and UK. Its content is mixture of humour and original news stories.

Rivlin said the Tab – whose name is a play on tabloid and “Cantab”, the nickname for Cambridge students – is focused on “original reporting for a young reader”.

As well as Murdoch, the meeting on the Tuesday after Glastonbury was attended by News Corp chief executive, Robert Thomson, and News UK chief operating officer, David Dinsmore. Rivlin said they agreed to invest in Tab Media on the spot.

He said he was not concerned about a backlash from readers about taking investment from Murdoch and that it “doesn’t really have any bearing at all on our business in how it is run”. Rivlin added: “I think News Corps reputation for journalism is seriously impressive. They own the Sunday Times, which exposed Lance Armstrong for drug cheating, and the Wall Street Journal, which has won three Pulitzer prizes in the last four years.”

Tab Media employs 42 people at offices in London and New York and the average age of its editorial staff is just 23. Rivlin said its content – including videos on social media – is seen by 50 million people a month.

The money from the investment will be used to fund more original reporting and training for young journalists, including through events with well-known journalists.

Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News UK, said: “The Tab and babe have the youngest editorial staff we’ve ever seen, and they have built an incredible connection with the new generation of young people in the US and UK.

“News Corp champions original journalism and this is an exciting investment for us, with opportunities to support grassroots talent on both sides of the Atlantic.”

This is not the first time that Murdoch has invested in a media brand targeted at a young audience. In 2013, Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox bought a 5% stake in Vice Media for $70m (£53m).

In the UK, Brooks oversaw a deal to buy multimedia group Unruly, which is based in Shoreditch, east London, and has software that can be used to predict how viral a video will be online. Last year, News UK also expanded into radio by spending more than £200m on buying TalkSport.

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