THREAD! I've reverse-engineered @jimwaterson's excellent article on sex-worker social media platform OnlyFans to show you how to find all sorts of stories in company accounts. Here's the article -… - now let's begin...🧵
2/ First, you need to locate the company behind OnlyFans. It's not called OnlyFans so you can either Google it, or look for an 'About' section on the site that leads you to the company - in this case, Fenix International Limited
3/ Search for the company on Companies House …… - the About page information on the director and address can be used to confirm that you have the right company
4/ The story starts by reporting that the founders "extracted tens of millions of pounds from its parent company in the last year". I'll come on to how that's established - but note re. libel that company accounts come under qualified privilege…
5/ With that carrot dangled, we establish some context: business is booming — a 615% increase in the year up to November 2020 (the period that the accounts cover) to £1.7bn. That's information from the "strategic report" on page 1...
6/ ...but if it hadn’t been there, you could also have found it in the first line of the statement of income, normally found after all the initial waffle in a set of accounts (it comes on p9) 💰💰💰
7/ Next up: director pay. This is often compared with workers' pay - but in this case most of the 'workers' aren't directly employed, so instead the juxtaposition is with the claims that it makes about payments to 'creators' Although the company likes to boast of the income it deliver
8/ Director pay normally comes in the notes to the accounts - in this case note 7 relating to Directors’ remuneration. Look for the 'highest paid director' as a separate line to directors overall. #bcujournos
9/ You can also work out how big an increase a director has had — in this case it's a 760% pay rise: divide the increase of £1,735,000 by the previous year's pay of £228,000 to work this out (times the result by 100 to get the figure as a percentage change)
10/ Next up: "and it paid £20m in dividends to its backers." This is also in the notes to the accounts. #bcujournos
11/ What about those tens of millions of pounds extracted? This detail is in another note - 21 - on Events after the reporting date. This type of note details anything important that happened after the financial year being reported on. Following the year end the group purchased the entire share
12/ But how does @jimwaterson know the company that was bought by Fenix for £23m is connected with the founders? For this you need to search for more information on that company, and look at the directors section:
13/ There's more to come on that £23m - but first, some interesting detail on "illegal underage material" and videos related to trafficking. This comes from the ‘Principal Risks and Uncertainties’ section at the front of a company's accounts - often a good source of stories This has proved to be highly lucrative as sex workers had fe“as any lapse in this effort could bring government sancti
14/ Company accounts can also be useful for context - a brief paragraph of the relative success of this company can be based on checking the accounts of "long-established mainstream British media companies" to see if their growth is similar (on revenue, profit etc) #bcujournos The company is striving for legitimacy and is keen to emphas
15/ More background in the next paragraph is also taken from the first page of the company's accounts. This is translated into simpler language (“fans signing on” becomes “customers”)
#bcujournos OnlyFans said it had added 69 million active customers in 20
16/ The info on profit is on page 1 too but can be found in the cash flow statement if it's not. Cash held is in the balance statement.
Translating the jargon is important: "cash balances" in the accounts is translated to "held in cash" for the reader.
#bcujournos Profit before tax rose from 6 million to 53 millionProfit before taxation
17/ Family connections! @jimwaterson next tells us about the sister who was a former director. This paragraph draws on information you can find on Companies House by looking at the People tab for the company... …… #bcujournos Deborah Stokely - resigned
18/ ...her brother Tom, however, isn’t listed here. Instead knowledge of his role comes from background research, such as this BuzzFeed article which also provides that information on the increase in signups after a Beyonce mention…
19/ ...To map the family network further you could click on each director’s name to see what other directorships they hold/have held, and search for their name - directors often have multiple entries ……
20/ ...Now @jimwaterson returns to the purchase of that company owned by the founders. Was it worth £23m? To find out we can dig into the accounts of that company …… - this also allows us to establish who controlled the company and when it was bought... This family-first approach extends to their acquisition poli
21/ We can investigate whether this company was worth £23m by seeing how much business the company was doing before it was bought. Check which accounts cover a period before the acquisition - they are likely to have been published *after*... ……
22/ Those are ‘exemption' accounts, meaning that they don't include details on how much money was coming into the business — but we can tell that the company wasn't doing enough business - "more than £10.2 million" - to be required to publish that...…
23/ ...What we *can* see, though, is the balance sheet of what it owns and owes. The company only had £4,468 in the bank and its assets had dropped by 74%... Assets have dropped by 74%
24/ ...The balance sheet also shows the "shareholders’ funds" - described by Investopedia as "the amount that would be returned to shareholders if all a company's assets were liquidated and all its debts repaid”… - as being in negative figures The company has increasingly negative shareholder equity
25/ ...There's a final par on the business being sold a couple years ago. Again this can be found in the filing history of the company and the last notification of a person with significant control, in October 2018 BUT... Two years ago the family sold a majority stake in the busine
26/ ...A *quicker* way of seeing when the business was bought is to look under the People tab, and switching to the Persons with significant control sub-section, which also says when the notification was made ……
27/ ...Of course, now you've got his name and month of birth you can look at what other companies he owns, not just in the UK but, using @opencorporates, in other jurisdictions too
28/ And this is all from just ONE article. How did @jimwaterson get the idea? It may be as simple as setting up an alert for companies of interest: create a (free) account on Companies House & you can 'follow' any company to get free email alerts when they post a new filing
29/ (Thanks to @FraserJopp for pointing out that the highest paid director amounts from year to year might not be a 'raise' because the director may have changed in that time - so use phrases like "the amount paid to the highest paid director rose by X%")
30/ There are plenty more stories you can get from company accounts - here are just 9 ideas… #bcujournos

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More from @paulbradshaw

30 Apr
Completing today's double bill on scrollytelling, it's great to be able to welcome another @BCUJournalism alumna to speak to MA students: @carolinebeavon on her "lockdown data story" 104 Days Later… #bcujournos
Succinctly expressed point by @carolinebeavon on the methodological issues of using social media to conduct surveys: "We're not gathering data at all - we're gathering testimonials". @Typeform was useful for this because people could upload files (recordings)
3/ ...but only one person uploaded an audio clip, so @carolinebeavon decided to contact respondents who left details to conduct interviews via Zoom in order to generate audiovisual material
Read 4 tweets
30 Apr
Really happy to be welcoming back MA Data Journalism alumna @oliviajlawlor from @f_l_o_u_r_i_s_h to @BCUJournalism to talk to current students as part of a double-header on scrollytelling today
I had no idea that @f_l_o_u_r_i_s_h had sports-specific #dataviz templates "to map a player's positions on a field/court" (via @oliviajlawlor)… #ddj
Also useful to consider @f_l_o_u_r_i_s_h's Stories feature as one way of creating animation that you can screencapture as a gif for social - e.g.… #ddj
Read 5 tweets
23 Mar 20
THREAD: As many journalism students are understandably concerned about their work during the disruption caused by #coronavirus, here is some of the advice I've been giving to my students...
1/ Adaptability is a key skill in journalism. This period will see you learning how to adapt in ways that you will draw on throughout your journalism career. See this as a challenge, not an obstacle...
2/ Watch a range of news to see how professional journalists are adapting to limitations on the movement of their sources, colleagues, and themselves — as well as adapting to the news agenda being dominated by one story
Read 25 tweets
19 Nov 19
Great to have @abigailedge at @BCUJournalism this afternoon to give #Bcujournos a special workshop on verification, trends, advanced search and Google Earth Timelapse
@abigailedge @BCUJournalism One of my favourite tips via @abigailedge is combining "" with "inurl:lists" but I like the addition of keywords in triangular brackets (or 'alligators'!) too: "<mental health bloggers>"… #bcujournos
Read 9 tweets

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