The National Readership Survey (NRS) 2006 had raised its share of hue and cry and the Indian Readership Survey (IRS) 2006 Round 2 didn’t bring much good news either, with all publications showing a decline. Industry leaders have mixed views on the trends that these surveys are throwing. However, one point that everyone makes is that it is about time readership surveys in India were advanced and adapted to the changing media and consumers.
Bharat Kapadia, Executive Director, Divya Bhaskar, who has been associated with print research for a long time now, observed, “Over the years, every time a new technical committee is instituted, it points out the changes to be made in methodology and what is wrong and what should be done. What happens to that in retrospective? A lot of decisions would have been swung in someone else’s favour already. People are experimenting, doing pilots and learning, and that is how it will be. Evolving is ok, but what happens to the mistakes?”
India Today’s CEO, Ashish Bagga, added, “Decline in readership seems a little unorthodox when circulation is increasing. I think going forward, we will need to work harder on every count, including making the research studies more robust.”
Bombay Samachar’s Hormusji Cama, also the current INS President, said, “A few years ago, media planners only looked at circulation. Net Paid Sales was taken as benchmarks, but somewhere down the line, circulation began to take a backseat to readership surveys and I’m not in agreement with that. Circulations do not tend to fluctuate the way readership fluctuates and that gives a certain stability.”
“Sometimes one feels that the survey guys come door to door and show you the masthead of the paper and say ‘Are you aware of this’. Even if you aren’t a reader and have seen an ad, you would reply in a Yes, the question is cleverly worded. We need to be a little more honest with ourselves,” he added.
“There are areas like rural India, which are very populous markets but the sample size isn’t adequate enough and these are areas, where you see deviations in research. I think this is something that has to be tackled,” observed Ravi Dhariwal, Executive Director, Bennett, Coleman and Company Ltd.
The other side of the media – the agencies – present varied views, more or less leading to the same point. Lodestar Universal’s Vice-president, Nandini Dias, said, “I can’t understand the drop in readership when circulation in India for quite a few publications is seeing an all-time high.”
Manish Porwal, Executive Director, India – West, Starcom Worldwide, suggested that what could be happening was correction. He said, “Perhaps there may be some correction happening rather than a real fall or there may genuinely be a fall in readership given the advancement of TV news channels and the advent of the Internet as the news source.”
He added, “What is important is that we are entering a truly empowered media consumption world where the consumer has finally started to choose what she wants to read. The circulation of most print vehicles, therefore, is going up much higher in comparison to the readership. Readers per copy, therefore, is seeing a decline, even though circulation is quite on an up. Cheers to the beginning of the end of ‘borrowed readership’.”
Intellect’s President Premjeet Sodhi pointed out, “Readership research users too should look at adapting their ‘conventions’. Everybody is talking of the changes happening to India and the Indian consumer especially in terms of the choice available to today’s consumer. Even the media has been working towards offering more choice to the consumer. Fragmentation in the media consumption then is inevitable.”
He said, “The media is not in trouble it is just evolving and we are not changing the metrics that need to be changed to make them relevant to the evolution happening.”