I have often heard members of the media fraternity raising and discussing this topic on various industry forums. But what needs to be understood is that worthy or non-worthy, IRS is the only currency available and it has been recognised by the trade. Thus, one has to go by it. It’s simply like, when in India, you have to have a Rupee in your pocket to spend. One does not have an option. The IRS and NRS merger has already been announced, so another readership survey seems far-fetched.
As we know, the two major subscribers of the IRS have always been the media agencies and the media houses. If agencies use IRS data as basis of all major media plans, media houses draw on the figures to their benefit in promotions within trade. The survey may have been conducted across the length and breadth of the country, but the usage of the survey data is still limited to specific geographies and businesses only. Can this be termed worthy?
The true worth of any such currency can be judged or defined only if it is made relevant and practical for the entire group of people for whom it is meant. Undoubtedly, media agencies based in Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru or Chennai outlay budgets of crores for their clients’ national media plans, taking IRS data as the basis. But does it make similar difference for an ad agency operating in Indore or may be Agra or Banaras? I am sure no one would agree. Why is it that apart from member publications of MRUC, out of the 3,000-odd ad agencies operating across the country, those subscribing to the IRS can still be counted on fingertips? Do decisions made purely on number crunching always pay?
The corporate business for majority of regional print players is still much lesser than ad revenues generated from retail business. After the last few rounds of IRS indicated emergence of regional print media in a big way, has it made regional clients and agencies reconsider their advertising plans based on the reports? In regional markets, practically all decisions on selection of media are still made on either perception, PR, rate bargains and, especially, previous experience of response from a newspaper. IRS for them is ‘just another survey’. Moreover, affordability and the understanding of the study are other deterrents in acceptance. There were times when ABC certification of newspapers was valued in regional markets; in fact, it was used as ‘the currency’ then. But with increasing business of ‘raddi’, that too has become irrelevant.
Thus, the point to be considered is how relevant and practical IRS could be made to attain true worthiness as a print currency. Like our own National Currency has become lot more relevant today post the implementation of ‘Limited’ convertability, so much so that it was with pride that we all took in the news of a symbol for the Rupee, thereby creating a true global value for the currency.
Likewise, the IRS needs to mature as a currency to increase its worth, and not be relevant because it is the only currency, but because it is ‘the’ currency. It would be worth a lot more the day it is used as frequently in the markets where print is actually on the growth path, the regional reader and the regional advertiser. It shall require a continuous process to evolve the methodology, which, I believe, is happening, as well as make it affordable for small agencies/ advertisers in Tier II and III towns, and take steps to educate them of its importance for the industry. I am sure, if the caretakers of the study continue taking the right steps, IRS would become a lot more relevant in times to come.
(Vinay Chhajlani is CEO, NaiDunia.)