The fight for the numero uno position between Businessworld and Business Today continues unabated. While one boasts of high readership, the other stakes its claims on circulation. Both ABC and IRS figures are grist to the mill for the two leading business magazines in this war of numbers.
Businessworld, from the Anandabazar Patrika Group, prefers to stake its leadership claims on the basis of ABC figures. In the July-Dec 2004 period, its circulation was 139,019, showing a marginal 5 per cent fall (7,595 copies) from Jan-June 2004. Said V. Natarajan, General Manager, Businessworld, "BW had doubled its price mid-way through 2004 and yet the decline in circulation was just a few thousand, which is a reflection of the high quality of our magazine."
Interestingly, Business Today, from the India Today Group, and Business India have not been a part of ABC for the last two years. Though senior officials from Business Today were not available for comment, a company source said that "circulation is secondary as what really matters is the number of people reading a copy".
To this, Natarajan remarked, "In 2002, when Businessworld was not a part of ABC, questions on our credibility were raised by competing business magazines. And as figures in the first half of 2003 indicated that BW was closing in on the competition, BT and BI dropped out of the ABC survey."
For the record, in Jan-Jun 2003, when all the three business magazines were on ABC, Businessworld had a circulation of 120,548, Business Today had 124,647, and Business India 75,673. In effect, the circulation of Businessworld has increased by 18,471 copies since 2003.
Moving on to the latest IRS figures, Businessworld is the only magazine to show a growth in readership of 10 per cent, while Business Today and Business India declined by 6 per cent and 7 per cent respectively (IRS R 1 2005). Nonetheless, the readership figure for Business Today (718,000) is almost double that of Businessworld (364,000). In addition, the Decision Makers Survey 4 conducted by AC Neilson ORG-MARG puts Businessworld's average issue readership among decision-makers at 42 per cent, while Business Today stood at 37 per cent.
Said Natarajan, "As we are growing our readership base, which obviously happens as you have achieved some base of circulation over a period of time, we believe that it is far more important to reach the people who count than to just count the people you reach. This is the philosophy with which we look at readership figures at our end."
It is interesting to note that for Businessorld, even as the circulation has marginally decreased, its readership has gone up by 10 per cent compared to last year - a trend not seen very often. Natarajan attributed this to quality of content.
However, media planners vote for the IRS numbers over ABC. Said Basabdatta Chowdhuri, General Manager, Madison Media, Delhi, "As planners we don't look at circulation. We look at readership and readership profile, as we believe they are better indicators and the latter is a reflection of content quality."
Reiterating a similar line of thought, Abbas Muni, General Manager, Carat (South & West), said, "ABC figures play an important role but readership is largely the base criterion we go by. IRS is the guiding principle we follow and we use ABC as an additional qualitative aspect."
Going beyond just numbers, Anita Nayyar, Executive Director-North, Starcom, said, "As the genre is the same, there is not too much issue over a few thousand circulation and readership numbers here and there. We look at the quality, content and features of the magazine. Editorial matters a lot as quality of content to a large extent defines the quality of people who read those magazines."
Reading the fine print and going by the opinion of media planners, Business Today seems to be clearly leading the charts as far as reach is concerned. But one cannot overlook the fact that Businessworld has been steadily inching forward.