The two-day Indian Magazine Congress 2006 concluded in the Capital on October 31 on an optimistic note. All the delegates present agreed that the industry needed to take a hard look at the ways and means to take magazines to the next level and settle all doubts raised about the efficacy of the medium.
Outlook’s Maheshwar Peri, also the Vice-president of the Association of Indian Magazines (AIM), organiser of the conference, rounded off the ‘take away’ from the Congress, while Indian Today Group’s Ashish Bagga, also the President of AIM delivered the closing address.
The last session of the Congress was on ‘Readership Trends and Opportunities: Insights and Learnings from Readership Research’. The moderator of the session was Spatial Access’ Meenakshi Madhvani. She kicked off the session pointing out that readership research in India was not as adequate as a market like India required.
Members of the panel that included the likes of TAM Media Research’s L V Krishnan, ACNielsen’s N Badrinath, Hansa Research’s Ashok Das and Richard Basil-Jones, MD, Nielsen Media Research, APAC, agreed with Madhvani, at least to some extent. Das and Badrinath pointed out that it was only in the areas of niche publications that research in India wasn’t adequate.
The reason for this was attributed to the masthead technique of measurement that didn’t allow enough for niche titles to be part of the research in relevant markets. Another issue that came to the fore was the difficulty in targeting some of the upper end sections of society that would be the key consumers of this research.
The solution to this led to the next problem, which was lack of required funds in research in India. The researchers pointed out that in order to improve some of the offerings, it was important for more funds to be able to execute specialist surveys or even have boosters in a survey.
Madhvani interjected here saying that publishers weren’t shy of investing “obscene amounts” in the area, but a significant portion of this was done for internal purposes only. “We are not able to get the right currency,” said Madhvani. However, even as she was of the opinion that research was seeing substantial investments in India, Das pointed out that India was one of the countries that saw the lowest revenue-research ratio.
The discussion led to the fact that even as there was room for improvement in research, publishers weren’t using what was available to the fullest in any case. A solution pointed out here was focusing on training and interactive sessions between the research agencies and publishers.
Another point that came to the fore was that like most mediums, in magazines, too, general interest was losing ground. But the media experts observed that magazines did offer a range of benefits with an engaging environment, the desired TG and a differentiated ability to communicate. A point that could help magazines here was the creation of right metrics that would measure the offering that magazines bring to the table.
A very important point that was discussed was that readership data was not annual result sheets and should be taken in absolutes. Even in the more mature markets, all of which faced the same problems as the India market was facing at present, surveys were seen more for trends and hence, should be averaged and observed.
The session ended with the panelists laying down some of the stark problems that readership in India faced and the problem of fortunes being dependant on these numbers.
Peri then took the dais and rounded off all that was heard and discussed during the Congress – readership surveys faced a basic structural problem in India, media nonetheless, has stated that it is willing to pay a premium to be in magazines and the help that can be expected from the Government on various issues that could boost the growth of magazines in India.
He concluded by saying, “As most speakers have said, the market is growing rapidly and we need to constantly re-invent ourselves to stay ahead of the curve and make magazines the medium that offer benefits that no other medium brings to the table.”