The industry may have been leaning towards the (Indian Readership Survey) IRS for its advertiser-friendly demographic data, but the swirling controversies around the methodology and the anomalies as pointed out by aggrieved parties, have raised the question – is the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) a better, more fool-proof method of gauging readership patterns in the publishing industry?
The two sets of data serve different purposes. While the ABC's circulation numbers may be handy for the publishers, advertisers may prefer the IRS that analyses not only the print media readership pattern, but also covers over a 100 product categories in the households surveyed.
In the light of the recent spate of controversy, the question that needs to be asked is, can one currency replace the other? Especially since a group of publishers have been talking about referring to ABC numbers only, while rejecting the IRS.
Anant Nath, Director, Delhi Press, finds faults with both, though he seems more favourably inclined towards the IRS. “We have seen irregularities in ABC as well, as agents and vendors can present fake circulation numbers,” he pointed out, adding, “The biggest problem with IRS is its lack of transparency.” However, the group's good showing in the previous IRS is reason enough for him to vote for it, he says, “Having said that, I am still not sure if the methodology is credible enough.”
George Sebastian, Senior General Manager, Mathrubhumi, votes for the ABC. “IRS has the advantage of providing demographic of the readers, their media consumption and other habits. It’s a survey and surveys can, and do, go wrong. ABC is an audit, and the numbers can be accounted for and hence more reliable.”
ABC and IRS cannot replace each other
Suresh Srinivasan, Vice President, The Hindu, makes a strong argument for both. “There is need for both the currencies in order to have different angles of studying print readership, just as we need Celsius and Fahrenheit, meters and kilometres, to measure the same things.”
Ruby Bana, Chief Strategy Officer, Madison Communications, however insists that the two currencies are mutually exclusive. “ABC and IRS are completely different; they don't measure the same thing. As far as Media Planners and Marketers are concerned, the question of substitution does not arise.”
When asked about the prominence of one currency, she replied, “This time, there have been changes in the IRS methodology due to an advance technology used to collect data. There are bound to be some upheavals because of this. However, that cannot be a reason for going back to older ways. ABC figures were always referred to, and will be referred to for the same reasons by planners and buyers. IRS and ABC cannot replace each other.”