The Media Research User's Council and Hansa Research that together bring out the Indian Readership Survey (IRS) have effected a very crucial change in the data beginning IRS 2008 R2, which is the 20th round of the data. Unlike the previous rounds of the IRS, where the average issue readership (AIR) was the primary metric used for the various analyses, in this round, total readership (TR) is the clear front for all. The AIR numbers are still available when the Planning Module of the data is seen. However, there was a panic attack of sorts when the various research teams first got the data CDs.
Frantic phone calls and discussions took place in a matter of minutes on MRUC and Hansa "discontinuing the supply of AIR numbers". As the day progressed however, and MRUC and Hansa officials were contacted, the publishers were informed that AIR was available. The run was not as simple as the previous rounds, and every publication that exchange4media has spoken to on the subject has said that the run now for procuring AIR numbers now is much more cumbersome.
Andrey Purushottam, Vice Chairman, MRUC, also the CEO, Mumbai Mantra, a Mahindra & Mahindra Group sponsored media and entertainment company, explained that when there was a change, there would be an initial period of settling. He added, "We have not moved from one measure to the other; we are presenting both the parameters. We believe that TR needs to get more prominence than what it has got in the past as that allows parity in measurement. The measurement of print consumption has been much more stringent as compared to television comparison, and, therefore, it was felt necessary to restore some balance there. Data users can use whichever combination of metric that they want."
Sunil Mutreja, President, Marketing, Amar Ujala, asked, "If they have to bring parity in measurement, then why is AIR given at all? As long as AIR is the industry currency, how does anyone expect a newspaper to look at other metrics? MRUC needs to be clear in what they really are trying to do here. If they had to give both AIR and TR, then what was wrong with the old system? In the current scenario, the only thing that they have ended up doing is make the data analysis very burdensome."
Bringing a different point of view, Ranjeet Kate, Director, Language Publications, BCCL, said, "With the kind of changes that we are seeing in the media landscape, fragmentation would be the order of the day. In the changing environment, it makes sense to look at TR numbers, as that is the direction in which the media would eventually move in any case. AIR may still be of assistance on a number of aspects, but the industry needs to begin taking cognisance of TR as well."
Hansa Research's Chairman Ashok Das explained that the change was made on the basis of the feedback received. Sabina Solomon, GM, MRUC, further elaborated, "The reason why we carried this out was because AIR is not an equivalent of TV reach. TR is the metric for that. The change has been made only at the cross-tab level, so there really is no change in that sense. The first insertion for any media plan is still AIR. What this goes to show, however, is that not many are still familiar with the software more than its basic run. At least, this move would lead people to go beyond the first normal run and really see data closely."
In the present state, the Indian media agency officials refer only to AIR. Divya Radhakrishnan, President, TME, said, "We have to see the 'recency' factor in print too. TR helps in determining the total reach of the medium per se, but when we are selecting individual vehicles for a media plan, then individual readership numbers are important. I would be more interested in the people who have read the paper yesterday, which comes out in the AIR metric, vis-à-vis the ones who would have read or heard about the paper over a period of time."
Most other agency officials opined on similar lines. If MRUC and Hansa's attempt is to make TR the more used metric, very clearly the organisations have to aggressively take up the subject with the industry in days to come.