No surprises that Hindustan Times does not take well to its numbers being challenged by TOI, on the back of the the Times of India advertisement on Saturday, 13th September (the advertisement read ‘The Truth shall prevail. Specially at 6am.’ The ad further read, ‘You may have read some claims and counter claims about readership and circulation of English dailies in Delhi and NCR. But the truth simply is: for the ‘regular’ copies of the TOI and HT (ie fully loaded copies that carry supplements and are listed in ABC as single or combo) TOI is 38% ahead of HT. The ad further invited readers to get a firsthand experience of the newspaper’s leadership by taking up the Times of India challenge, by contacting the TOI and visiting a newspaper depot.
Reacting to this, Shantanu Bhanja VP (Marketing) and Business Head HT Media said, "HT is conclusively ahead of TOI in Delhi and Delhi NCR for the last several rounds in both Circulation and Readership.Using various cuts of ABC for determining leadership using various strange slices among artificial audience, price and city cuts to claim leadership! - Surely, no one takes those seriously?!”
“Around the world, what advertisers and media planners really care for is not just how many copies are printed and sent to the centres at 6 in the morning, but how many are really picked up by readers to read. TOI is of course aware of that, since that alone is the real proof of the pudding!What we are unfortunately experiencing, therefore, is an expression of utter frustration at the last round of IRS so conclusively establishing HT's lead in Delhi NCR,” he further added.
This is however not the first time the Times of India has challenged HT numbers, on Friday, June 13th The Economic Times took on HT numbers with a headline which read ‘All Down & 0ut, HT Up and About, Media industry foxed’.
In response to this HT published a story in the main edition of Saturday, June 14th saying ‘TOI cannot digest readers’ message, shoots messenger’. With TOI’s second challenge to HT, what lies store it seems the battle to prove leadership continues irrespective of IRS numbers revalidation notwithstanding.
“This case of "grapes are sour" is of course a bit shocking since TOI was deeply involved at the senior-most levels in the design and execution of the new IRS.But, as everyone knows, this is but only the latest in a long list of attempts to deny the validity of an industry-accepted metric.
Firstly protesting to industry bodies, then trying to form a coalition (that failed)...then putting pressure to do a validation (where a 5-month long exercise by an all-industry body has again re-affirmed the results)...then trying to use the power of the court...then using Editorial to write articles...So, this latest (read TOI Challenge) is another attempt to throw further new red herrings into the argument,” shared Bhanja.
The IRS saga which begun on January 28th this year with the release of new data, seems to continue with two of India’s biggest publications combating each other with new arguments each time, irrespective of the revalidation, the battle seems to only continue.
“What really matters is that the re-validated IRS clearly establishes that in Delhi NCR, HT's actual readership is more than TOI's by nearly 40%, and unlike what TOI would have you believe, this readership lead is completely at the top end of readership, with a lead among the well-heeled NCCS A of more than 41% It is surely time for some to move on and accept that fair competition in the marketplace is healthy, and adds value for both the reader and the customer.
Time indeed to start displaying the maturity that a good leader must demonstrate, and to look at the mirror...And, time perhaps to also look quickly at the rear-view mirror in Mumbai - since, with 13.6 lakh HT readers already and 9 lakh unique HT readers - there is one citadel clearly under threat!" concluded Bhanja, clearly not mincing words either.