Following the release of the National Readership Survey (NRS) 2006, the print industry had quite a few issues to present to the National Readership Studies Council (NRSC), in effect, challenging the very credibility of the survey. Large media publications even made clear their intention to even seek legal intervention in the matter and the game stopped at what NRSC’s response to the industry queries would be.
The first set of responses has come in and NRSC’s Kedarnath Sharma presents a mix of clarifications resulting from the modification in the survey and issues where they state the research agency ACNielsen is making required corrections.
Sharma said, “I am sure these clarifications show that the changes between NRS 2005 and NRS 2006 are easily explainable and none of these changes could be termed either illogical or extreme.”
Looking at the clarifications now, on the whole, while explanations have been given for broad points, NRSC divulged that for cases like Rajasthan Patrika, the Council had asked ACNielsen to validate the readership figures of all the key publications by checking the entire data once again.
On the query raised on population estimates of Ghaziabad, Moradabad, and Bareilly, NRSC replied that ACNielsen had confirmed that there was a programme bug and that this was being corrected. The reply said: “The population figures in these towns now stand corrected and the anomalies you have mentioned will go away. Also, these corrections will not affect either the population or readership figures at the district level.”
To the query raised on “Most publications have gained in urban India, but lost out massively in rural India,” NRSC replied, “To understand this fluctuation you need to know a few of the modifications that were carried out in the design of NRS 2006.”
The first of theses modifications include keeping most of the urban survey centres common between NRS 2005 and NRS 2006. Second was to select half the sample from the voters’ list and the other half using the right hand rule for all metros, since it was felt that the voters’ list in metros did not fully represent the reading population of a metro. Lastly, the masthead book was redesigned to group publications on one page as against a single publication on one page.
The official reply further said, “These changes are improvements made to ensure that readership estimates obtained from the survey would more accurately reflect readership and we believe the main reason why the estimates provided for urban India are quite reliable. Rural India is huge and diverse. The limitations of sample sizes pose a huge challenge in getting stable results for readership on year-on-year basis.”
On the count of “Metro readers versus non-metro readers”, the response quoted, “You have referred to the figures for the English language press while talking about migration to the top metros. Let me put the NRS 2006 data in its proper perspective first.”
Sharma pointed out that NRS 2006 showed that that the English languages press had lost 18.1 lakh readers. However, 17.1 lakh readers were from rural India and just 1 lakh readers were from urban India. Hence, the readership of the English language press in urban India was stable. The huge fluctuation in rural data was primarily a result of sample size limitations.
“Interestingly, the drop in the reach of English magazines is just 33,000 readers. In a sample survey, such marginal drops are insignificant. Also, the reach of English dailies in urban India has increased from 18.96 lakh readers in 2005 to 19.15 lakh readers in 2006, registering an increase of 1.88 lakh readers. Hence, the English press in urban India is quite stable,” he pointed out.
The final point that Sharma made here was that the growth of English press had come from top eight metros of the country. “The loss of English language readers in smaller towns has been gained by the language press. We strongly believe that NRS 2006 indicates that the Indian language press is gaining share at the cost of English language press in smaller towns,” he said.
To the example presented of data anomaly in Punjab Kesari in Punjab, Himachal, Chandigarh and Haryana, he said, “Punjab Kesari has increased their circulation by 20,000 copies. Punjab Kesari’s readership growth has come mainly from rural areas. Comparing the readers per copy between NRS 2005 (5.2) and NRS 2006 (7.2) and low sample in rural areas, we think the estimate of Punjab Kesari readership is reasonable.”
He further said, “Punjab Kesari’s readership growth has come mainly from rural areas. Comparing the readers per copy between NRS 2005 (7.1) and NRS 2006 (11.8) and low sample in rural areas we think estimate of Punjab Kesari readership is reasonable.”
On the issue of the population of Uttaranchal, he said, “While finalising the population estimates for NRS 2006, we had compared our population projections with that of the Population Expert Committee and identified that the population of Uttaranchal had to be corrected downwards by almost 15 lakh. Hence, there is a downward correction of readers of all publications in Uttaranchal. Also, the population of Dehradun also stands corrected and hence, lower readership figures.”
“Most of the other anomalies you have referred to will get corrected with the correction in population figures of these towns,” Sharma said.
NRS 2006: After the meeting, all eyes now on NRSC’s response
NRSC meets publishers, agencies to discuss anomalies in NRS 2006 data