Research is very important for the growth of any sector as it helps in understanding the behaviour pattern of consumers. The fourth session of the Indian Newspaper Congress 2008 saw professionals from the print media and research industry locking horns over IRS and NRS. The congress was organised by the Indian Newspaper Society in collaboration with exchange4media in the Capital on May 16, 2008.
NP Sathyamurthy, Joint President, Lintas Media Group, moderated the session. The speakers were Amit Ray, Chief Strategy Officer, BAG Films & Media; Chandradeep Mitra, President, Mudra MAX; Dupindar Sandhu, Chief-Category (Food Bazaar), Pantaloons; Sabina Solomon, General Manager, MRUC; Praveen Tripathi, CEO, Hansa Consulting; Suresh Balakrishna, COO, Mail Today; and I Venkat of Nimmagadda Foundation.
Ray observed that research surveys such as IRS are simply a diagnostic tool for the stakeholders. Enough refinement in the scope of the study and methodology has been undertaken by MRUC, considering the requirements of the industry from time to time. As Vice-Chairperson of IRS, “it is frustrating that the key stakeholders have not responded at all to the changes proposed by MRUC recently”, he said.
Mitra urged all users to “look at research data with honesty", and not just consider their own short-term gain or loss. He acknowledged that research could be, and should be, made better and "that can happen only if industry bodies like MRUC are put to better use" through voluntary contributions”. He also called for a single currency as one of the ways to make such surveys “more contemporary”.
Tripathi pointed out, “Research databases like IRS or NRS are not being exploited well by the users and they can be put to at least 80 per cent greater use.” He urged the industry stalwarts to impart better training to users to capitalize on the wealth of information already available. He also requested that "all stakeholders should outline the scope desired by them for such surveys in advance and not after the results are declared”. He agreed that lifestyle and other changes that impact the consumer behaviour should be captured to make research surveys more robust. “It is important to note that the pattern of consumption for discretionary time has changed,” he said.
Sandhu was of the opinion that “surveys like IRS or NRS are not frequent enough because of their nature of bi-annual reporting. This does not allow many advertisers to put them to good use. Urging that these surveys should be made more frequent, he said, "It is time now to stop the overload of democracy in seeking everyone's point of view and outline quickly a more contemporary research design and move on.”
On his part, Venkat remarked, “Relevant information of reading trends for newspaper sections and supplements and critical information on who in the household is reading (multiple respondents per home) is the way to go.” His logic was that unlike ten years ago, today most households subscribed to more than one newspaper, so it was vital to find out what is being bought, and who is reading what.
Balakrishna strongly urged for more refined data especially for the SEC A category. He said, “Currently the data from such surveys are used for understanding market potential for new launches of editions or titles," and vehemently held that “the sample representation in SEC A is inadequate and should be improved substantially. Besides, research questionnaires should be pruned to the bare minimum.”
MRUC’s Solomon responded that there had been improvements undertaken by IRS, considering the industry requirements in the past. She pointed out that every research went through continuous evolution. “The only way forward to satisfy all stakeholders is to move towards a single currency of readership survey. This is possible only with greater industry participation,” she said.
In sum, there was agreement that the research surveys should be made more contemporary and more frequent, which is feasible only with the participation of and investment by all stakeholders.