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IRS 2009 R2: Mixed reactions from FM players, but decline in listenership a concern

IRS 2009 R2: Mixed reactions from FM players, but decline in listenership a concern

Author | Robin Thomas | Wednesday, Jan 13,2010 7:44 AM

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IRS 2009 R2: Mixed reactions from FM players, but decline in listenership a concern

There have been mixed reactions from the industry to the IRS 2009 R2 radio data released by the MRUC and researched by Hansa Research. While the winners are obviously happy with the results, there is a general concern being raise about the decline seen in listenership, which many fear would impact advertising on radio.

Industry Speak

Prashant Panday, CEO, ENIL, commented, “We are very excited with the IRS as always. We have done well as always. We’re clear leaders in the top eight markets in the country taken together. Even individually, we lead in six out of these eight. Overall, we are number 1 in 25 of our 32 markets. This is just one more data point that shows how strong Mirchi is as a brand. Don’t forget just a year back, Mirchi had been selected as the No. 1 media brand in the country – ahead of even The Times of India and Star Plus.”

On a similar note, Rana Barua, EVP and National Head - Programming and Marketing, Radio City, said, “We are extremely delighted with the IRS survey results. Our strong No. 2 position has been validated and we are especially happy that we have performed well in the key markets. Our focus on understanding listeners and leveraging the synergies of music expertise and innovative programming has paid off.”

On a different note, Harrish M Bhatia, COO, My FM said, “It is surprising to see that an industry that has been witnessing excellent growth would be declining in terms of listenership figures. It may be noted that discrepancies were quite apparent in the IRS 2009 R1 data as well that the methodology and results generated from it were far from satisfactory. Even the IRS 2009 R2 has thrown up results that are tough to put logic behind. The industry as a whole needs to critically analyse the data and find solutions towards a more credible metric system.”

The Listenership Factor

“FM listenership has been shown to be growing very slowly from 117 million listeners nationally to about 118 million now. This is certainly a little disappointing, but then we should remember that R2 and R1 both capture listenership post at least one year of almost all stations launching nationally. Besides, the best for radio is still to come – with Phase III coming (and assuming that we can have auctions – if music royalty is sorted out), we should see a dramatic increase in radio listenership across the country. What may cause anguish to some new broadcasters is when they find their listenership numbers low. The fact is that radio listenership is very sticky. Incumbents who have been around for longer time have a clear advantage in terms of listenership,” noted Panday.

Barua observed, “While IRS has validated our No. 2 network position, the data is showing a declining trend at an overall level which is a concern. If listenership is underestimated, it will impact radio advertising at a category level.”

Bhatia explained, “The IRS 2009 R2 reports that the industry has witnessed a 2.33 per cent decline in listenership numbers, which is a matter of some contention and unlike last round, only two of the Top 10 Radio stations( top 10 – basis the IRS report itself) have grown in listenership, rest, all players have declined in numbers. This again puts the report in doubt.”

IRS versus RAM

According to Panday of Radio Mirchi, “Obviously RAM is richer data. It gives you every 15 minutes’ listenership trends week after week but, RAM’s issues are well known. Most important of all is the fact that it is available in only four cities. How can you make a medium reach its true potential if it is measured in only four markets? That is why IRS is so important. It’s the only source of radio listenership across the country.”

“For a media planner, it is the only source of getting an idea of which radio station commands how much listenership across the country. Besides, I have always maintained that when it comes to the measurement of reach (cumes), there can be no fingers pointed at IRS – it has the largest sample size possible. Besides, it asks for yesterday and last-week listenership – it’s as accurate on recall as you can get. Even RAM is a recall research. IRS Reach data is certainly more accurate than RAM as far as reach is concerned,” he added.

Barua of Radio City noted, “IRS is the only multi-media study and advertisers are referring to the same. Also keeping in mind that RAM is present in only four markets, we have to refer to IRS for markets where RAM is not present. Moreover, we have experienced concerns on RAM in terms of data stability and sensitivity from time to time (which have been addressed to RAM) and hence also use other internal studies to validate the RAM data.”

Bhatia of My FM pointed out, “IRS data is not accurate and is also insufficient. Radio is a dynamic medium and the report, for instance of Round 2 2009, is based on field work done in the period – July’08 to June’09, would at best represent the situation pertaining to the period six to eight months back. RAM on the other hand is much more detailed and also widely accepted in the industry. But it is restricted in terms of the area it covers, once it expands it, we feel, it will be a better currency for the Industry. Moreover, since Industry is a part of RAM, endorses it largely, which isn’t the case with IRS, RAM can provide a better system for measuring Radio efficiency.”

Whether it is IRS or RAM, both have their own drawbacks, while RAM is said to be endorsed by the industry and that it has better system for measuring radio efficiency, it ironically has a limited reach. IRS, on the other hand, has a far greater reach and is said to be more accurate, which is still very debatable in the industry. While there are FM player excited about the results one of the concern which perhaps has come as a surprise to many is the decline in listenership which is feared to have some impact on radio advertising.

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