Most of the money that Follow the Money receives goes to our investigative journalism. The more members we have, the more money we can invest in our investigations. This is not an empty promise, but a fundamental principle of our enterprise. With it comes a responsibility: to prove to you that we are honouring that promise. That is why we gladly explain where our money comes from and what we have spent it on.
[While Follow the Money’s English-language website FTM.eu is free to read (after registration), the Dutch website FTM.nl has over 40,000 paying members. These subscribers have helped us fund the launch of FTM.eu.]
In 2022, we successfully took our journalism to the next level, thanks to our members. We used that year to focus on investigating EU money flows and data journalism even more. We are proud to say that we now have the biggest ‘Brussels’ investigative editorial team in the European Union and are one of the biggest data editorial teams in the Netherlands.
We also launched our ‘The Russia Crisis’ file immediately after Russia invaded Ukraine. At Follow the Money, journalists are given time to master difficult files, and because of that, we were able to move quickly after the invasion and produce important news stories that would otherwise remain untold.
These days, journalistic scrutiny is more necessary than ever, demanding facts rather than opinions. The counterforce that Follow the Money is able to provide due to the enormous growth of our journalistic organisation is entirely attributable to the trust of our now more than 40 thousand paying members.
Therefore, we publish this annual review to show you how we spent the money in 2022. Thank you for your trust in us over the past year!
We are not your typical company
Follow the Money is a private company, but not one that revolves around profit. We see ourselves as a social enterprise, and to formalise that character, we have officially established a dividend cap of 5 per cent on the total capital invested. That way, potential profits can only flow to shareholders to a very limited extent.
But in reality, even this never happens. In the 12 years of our existence, we have never paid any dividends. Moreover, a dividend freeze has expressly been set for 2022 to 2024. As a result, all the money we receive stays within the organisation, which we can then invest in our journalism.
In 2022, our turnover was 4,617,654 euros, an increase of 64.6 per cent compared to 2021. The net profit was 7 per cent. Because we do not pay dividends, the entire profit is allocated to our budget and planned investments for 2023.
Our revenues have increased significantly over the past year, mainly due to the success of our new book publishing business and the growth in the number of paying readers. Follow the Money uses all this money to further invest in journalism.
We are frugal and cautious: in economically less favourable times, we want to be able to absorb setbacks. But also cost increases – due to inflation, for instance.
Our paying members are by far our biggest source of income. They ensure that we can do our work independently: free from the quirks of advertisers.
In 2022, the number of paying readers increased more substantially than we had anticipated. We started that year with 34 thousand members; by 31 December, we had almost 40 thousand.
Almost 80 per cent of our members have a one-year or two-year membership, the others have monthly memberships. Long-term subscriptions are the very best: they allow us to plan ahead financially for a longer period and provide more certainty about our income. This also allows us to make long-term investments.
Just under 5 per cent of this income is generated by corporate subscriptions. These are companies that pay a membership for their employees.
Publishing company & webshop14%
We are delighted to have published three books and a unique art project about the monetary system in our first year as a publisher. All our books involve lengthy investigations and careful consideration. We not only explore current issues in depth but also search for the related money trails.
In January, we published De blauwe fabel by Ties Joosten, and in March, we released Sywerts miljoenen by Jan-Hein Strop and Stefan Vermeulen, which won us the award for best political book of the year. In autumn, we published Gokkers en graaiers by Roel Janssen.
For the art project ‘De ontrafeling van ons geldstelsel’, we are collaborating with cartographer Carlijn Kingma. Her completely hand-drawn map, ‘Het waterwerk van ons geld’, depicts the landscape of invisible money flows and hidden forces. The poster of this artwork has been sold 2346 times, making it our best-selling product in the webshop, second to our books.
In 2022, Follow the Money also performed in theatres in 14 cities in the Netherlands. In this production, five FTM employees told how and why they got into journalism and what working for Follow the Money means to them.
Finally, besides books and posters, we sell T-shirts, bags, notebooks and gift memberships through our webshop.
Subsidies & foundations12%
To operate as independently as possible, we want to be able to sustain ourselves. Years ago, we deliberately chose an ad-free membership model. Nevertheless, Follow the Money also receives donations and grants − 5 per cent of our income came from grants and 7 per cent from private foundations.
Sometimes we apply for a grant because it allows us to fund larger, more ambitious projects that are ‘too risky’ in business terms for a relatively small company such as ours. We would like to emphasise that Follow the Money does not accept money from foundations or donations subject to journalistic conditions.
Donations from members4%
We receive donations several times a day. Sometimes these people are members who want to give us a little extra; others cannot or do not wish to become members but would like to support our journalistic quest. In 2022, the average donation was 203 euros. The biggest individual donation was the 50,000 euros we received from Alexander Klöpping in March. The second-biggest donation was 5,000 euros, and the smallest was 5 euros.
This item includes sold gift memberships and penalties from the government to FTM journalists.
Usually, the government imposes penalties, but sometimes the courts rule that the government itself owes a penalty. Follow the Money journalists have collected several such ‘converse’ penalties. This happened in all cases because the documents we requested through the Freedom of Information Act (Wob) were not released or released far too late. And that carries a penalty.
That is not a revenue source we actively pursue or are very happy with. In 2022, it amounted to 9768 euros in penalties and 569.25 euros in litigation fees.
Ordinarily, the government imposes penalties, but sometimes courts rule that the government itself owes one. Follow the Money journalists have collected several such ‘converse’ penalties. This happened in all cases because the documents we requested through the Freedom of Information Act (Wob) were released far too late. And that carries a penalty.
However, this is not a source of income Follow the Money journalists actively pursue, or of which we are proud. Be that as it may, this income is fully reinvested in journalistic research. It amounted to a total of 9,768 euros in penalties and 569.25 euros in litigation fees.
Our turnover has increased rapidly in recent years, and so have the costs. Nevertheless, over the last two years, we still had money left over that we invested in expanding the company.
For a journalistic organisation, that mainly means more people. On 1 January 2022, we had 29 employees; on the last day of that year, the total was 41.
Journalism in general – and investigative journalism in particular – is a time-consuming job. Therefore, the vast majority of our expenses go to our journalistic organisation. Almost 70 per cent of our total budget goes to journalists, chief editors, researchers and image, audio and video producers.
Our editorial costs also include inevitable expenditure on subscriptions to professional literature and databases containing company information.
Last year, we invested a lot of money in expanding our editorial data team, so that they could produce articles such as The Great Green Investment Investigation, the Bouwput Netherlands file and The China Science Investigation. Furthermore, thanks to our investments in Bureau Brussels, we have become one of the largest investigative editorial teams focusing specifically on investigating the EU.
Book publishing costs include research and writing time for authors, printing expenses, retail margin, editing costs, layout, promotion, storage and distribution costs.
Publishing & marketing8%
Our marketing department takes care of the newsletters accompanying each article, our posts on social media, and all other communications to make as many people as possible aware of Follow the Money’s publications.
The Publishing & Marketing cost item also includes the fees for this department and other expenses for promoting our platform.
This item includes office accommodation costs, plus telephone and internet subscriptions, expenses for office supplies such as coffee and tea, and occasionally, a Friday afternoon drink.
Operations also include banking and transaction fees, accountant and accounting fees, and legal fees.
We are constantly improving our website and app. Our development team develops new features all the time that enrich our journalism. The digital security requirements for our platform and staff also continue to increase.
In 2022, we made additional investments to update the coding of our website. Further costs include depreciation related to our online platform.
In late 2020, in addition to Follow the Money BV, we set up a second company, Follow the Money Publishing BV, to manage our book business. Both companies fall under our holding company FTM Media BV. The figures in this article are the combined figures of these private companies. The aforementioned dividend ceiling applies to both organisations.
We chose this approach so that the activities of our book publishing business can be properly separated from the journalism on our website.
We want Follow the Money to be accessible to students. So, we give two students free access for every corporate membership (currently around 1,300). They can then make unlimited use of our website during the current academic year. They can register at www.ftm.nl/student.
Management and remuneration
Follow the Money is managed by three directors: Arne van der Wal, Eric Smit and Jan-Willem Sanders. They are not employed by Follow the Money but charge a monthly fee. In 2022, this fee was 6,500 euros per person. They had to pay their own wage tax, social security contributions, insurance, pension and other obligations from this gross amount.
Filed financial statement
The figures quoted here are a summary of the financial statements of the two private companies. For fans: their filed financial statements in PDF can be found here:
- Follow the Money bv (journalistic website)
- Follow the Money Publishing bv (publishing company and webshop)
If you have any questions following this annual financial report, please ask us. We will answer them to the best of our ability. Please bear in mind that some items may be sensitive in terms of privacy.