When the percentage growth of various mediums is seen in the last three years, Cinema and Radio appeared to be the only ones that had any growth numbers to speak of. Based on the Indian Readership Survey (IRS) 2006, even as the other mediums haven’t shown any growth, IRS officials explain that when seen closely, reach of mass media has in fact increased.
Looking at the reach numbers that IRS 2006 R 1 findings throw, in the last three years, press maintained a 23.6 per cent reach, TV saw a slight change from 54.4 per cent in 2004 to 54.9 per cent in 2006, C&S increased from 26.1 per cent in 2004 to 28 per cent, Internet maintained a 1.5 per cent reach. Radio increased from 19.2 per cent to 20.9 per cent and Cinema increased from 10.3 per cent in 2004 to 11.8 per cent in 2006.
An official IRS press note on IRS 2006 R 1 data, stated, “Reach of mass media seems to have stagnated in the last three years. Press reach has been hovering around at 24 per cent, TV at 55 per cent, Radio at 21 per cent and Internet at 1.5 per cent at the all India level. In urban India, Press and TV have actually declined in the last three years.”
When asked what had led to the decline in mass media, IRS officials were quick to draw attention to the figures of the last three rounds of the IRS. Comparing reach of media of IRS 2006 R 1 with that of IRS 2005 R 1, Press has grown by 5.7 per cent, TV by 7.2 per cent, C&S by 13.5 per cent and Radio has increased by 5.4 per cent. FM Radio has increased by 21 per cent and Cinema by 21.5 per cent, Internet showing a modest growth of 6.8 per cent.
Explaining these figures, Suresh Nimbalkar, AVP, Hansa Research, said, “The numbers clearly show that only Press has shown a marginal drop in reach in the recent IRS round, while all other mediums have registered healthy growth. However, if you compare the current Press reach with that of IRS 2005 R1, there is a decent growth of 5.7 per cent. Thus, press reach has increased over the period. To understand trends in mass media reach, let’s look at the combined reach of ‘TV and Press’. It has consistently shown growth across the past three rounds. Thus, the reach of mass media is increasing.”
As per the data, the combined reach of TV and Press has grown by 9.5 per cent since IRS 2005 R 1. Nimbalkar explained, “The overall reach of mass media is on the rise, as one would expect due to increasing literacy levels. The relative share of each medium may vary depending on technology and market developments. For example, sudden increase in the number of 24 hour news channels, free Internet editions, level of promotions and so on. Another example is Kerala. Till some time back, it was the only state where press reach was higher than that of the TV. Today, the state is witnessing healthy growth in C&S penetration.”
Even as IRS emphasises that media reach has increased in the last year, a point to be noted is that mass media consumption is still stagnating. Giving an explanation here, Manish Porwal, Executive Director, Starcom (West), said, “This is the beginning of the end of ‘saas-bahu’ serials and ‘one size fits all’ media solutions. There is a general decline or stagnancy in very large genres and vehicles. The top five programmes on STAR Plus have gone down on their TVRs by 10 per cent Y-o-Y. Readership of individual dailies in geographies and segments where people have a real choice is showing a decline in the latest round of IRS. This was a trend waiting to show up.”
He further said, “The good news is that this ebb is flowing into special interest media and vehicles and audiences here will not just consume but consume this media with far more affinity and interest. Having said this, it’s not that audiences are completely abandoning mass media or general interest. As it is, the difference between the genres is so huge that it would take years before real fragmentation starts to hit and a news channel may really threaten a general interest one. It’s just that the polarisation of many people on a few media or vehicles will now stop.”
Kunal Jamuar, Business Director, Insight opined on similar lines. “Mass media consumption is going down due media’s ability to customise for a specific consumer need (relevance) and the distribution of the medium. Most mass media needs undivided attention and has limited access. For example, you can’t watch TV in office, two newspapers don’t give different offerings, unless they are of different genres. Radio is one medium that has lately started occupying this down time through the mobile radio. This is a space that is likely to go up in the time to come,” he said.
Porwal echoed Nimbalkar’s point when he observed, “It is wrong to think that there is no increase in media reach, individually or collectively. Having seen noticeable drops within the last two rounds of IRS, we must not forget that over a long period in time, both readership and reach of media has not declined. There are more people in rural India who are no longer media dark and over last many years, people are spending more time on media – both mass media like print and Television and relatively new media like FM and the Internet. Let’s be careful to not mistake the trees for the woods.”
Mass media consumption going down and the decline that is seen on that count perhaps means a road to more sticky and loyal audience. As experts say, choice means fragmentation and aligning of people’s media time by their passions and interests. But is that what is happening on the Indian media front today? Many would answer that in the affirmative.