Readership is critical for any publication. Especially when media planners chart out ad revenues based on readership figures. In the case of niche publications, which survey serves their interest best? Is it National Readership Survey (NRS), Indian Readership Survey (IRS) or is it the Decision Makers’ Survey (DMS). Let’s take a closer look.
The readership figures of four leading business publications as per DMS in percentages put The Economic Times in the number one slot with 78 per cent. Business Standard is at number two with 26 per cent followed by Financial Express and Hindu Business Line with 18 and 14 per cent respectively. DMS, conducted by AC Nielsen-ORG Marg, is an annual survey detailing the attitudes of 1200 decision-makers aimed at marketers and publications to focus their media plans more sharply.
“While readership surveys study the media habits and product ownership of the larger population, DMS focuses on a specific, more difficult to access portion of the population that plays a role in deciding the fate of a very large sum of money that is disproportionate to its size,” said Adrian Terron, Head – Marketing Communications, AC Nielsen, South Asia.
As per NRS 2005, The Economic Times has a readership of 11,74,000, Business Standard has 33,000, Financial Express 32,000, and Hindu Business Line 2,02,000. According to the latest IRS figures, readership of The Economic Times stands at 957,000, Business Standard is at 106,000, Financial Express 121,000 and Hindu Business Line is at 149,000.
While The Economic Times emerges as a clear leader in all the three surveys, it is interesting to note that Business Standard is number two in DMS followed by Financial Express and Hindu Business Line.
However, going by NRS data, Hindu Business Line is way ahead of Business Standard, which is at number three, and there is a difference of only 1000 copies between Business Standard and Financial Express that takes the fourth slot. Also, IRS puts Hindu Business Line at number two followed by Financial Express. Here, Business Standard is fourth.
So, is it true that IRS and NRS are unable to address the needs of niche publications, especially business publications, and thus a need for specialised surveys?
Responds Rakesh Shah, VP-Marketing, Business Standard, “The margin of error is high in case of business publications. Many times the information provided in the surveys is very different. In light of this, one then depends on the choice of the media planners as to what they believe is a better survey.”
While Business Standard considers DMS to be fair and very focussed, N Murali, Joint Managing Director of The Hindu, holds a different opinion. “One can use a flawed perspective suiting to their needs, but DMS is not an industry-wide survey,” he remarked.
Murali admits that though niche publications stand to lose in a countrywide survey, they are still reliable. “NRS gives more insights into behavioural patterns covering various categories but sometimes in sampling, niche publications lose out. This can be overcome by using a large sample and city-wise supplement,” he said.
Murali also pointed out that in the last three NRS, readership of Business Standard was lower than the circulation! On this, Shah feels that it is very difficult to digest such a reporting. At present, the circulation of Business Standard (all editions) is more than two times the readership quoted in the latest NRS survey.
The fact of the matter remains that any survey can be useful. Rahul Kansal, Brand Director, The Times of India, is of the opinion that NRS studies India as a whole with huge samples that are spread across the entire country. As a result, SEC A to SEC E is covered with people ranging from postgraduates to illiterates. “NRS reviews the nation and data for niche publications is its secondary objective. DMS on the other hand zooms into SEC A covering senior management, which makes it a highly focused B2B survey,” he explained.
DMS also seems to be gaining popularity with media planners. Anita Nayyar, Executive Director-North, Starcom, states that DMS gives a peek into the relevant audiences which neither IRS or NRS does. “We do consider DMS, though not in isolation, as it gives a holistic view of the target group,” she said.
Airing a similar sentiment, Basabdatta Chowdhuri, General Manager, Madison Media, Delhi, said, “DMS solidifies the idea you get from IRS and NRS. The sample is very relevant for premium and high-end products.” She pointed out that while planning for a niche publication, they consider DMS as well as it provides a better understanding.
Everything said and done, though NRS and IRS are established surveys, DMS is definitely emerging as a reliable source of readership data for niche publications.