The Indian Readership Survey (IRS) was launched in the year 1995 with an aim to set an industry standard for readership and other media measurement and to provide insights on media and product consumption as well as consumer behaviour patterns. The IRS Survey covers nearly 70 cities, 1178 towns and 2894 villages with the coverage being reviewed before the start of every round. Until last year, the IRS data used to be released twice a year, but from this year onwards, the IRS data would be released quarterly. The Q1 for 2010 has been released recently.
How has this change in frequency affected the publishers? Do they find the data relevant? Will it help media planners in identifying trends quickly, as opposed to earlier?
Jwalant Swaroop, Director, Advertising and Business development, Lokmat said that the frequency of the data does not matter, what matters is the accuracy. He added, "There should be emphasis on page-wise and supplement readership. It is also important to monetise the data as the frequency is not going to drive the publishers billing."
Voicing a similar view from the publisher's side, Maheshwer Peri, Publisher, Outlook, stated that that IRS should first get its act right in capturing the SEC-A data correctly, as this affects the business and magazine readership. He pointed out that while IRS concedes that there are problems with certain segments of its data, greater efforts need to be made to solve them too. He said, "In the absence of capturing the right data, higher frequency is meaningless, at least for magazines. Besides, greater frequency will only add to the confusion and cacophony for the entire print genre rather than solve or strengthen readership measurement."
Diligent Media's CEO, K U Rao, however compares the situation to television measurement and said that television data is released every week, and hence there was a need for shortening the gap in the IRS data as well. He noted, "There may be some initial hiccups, but people will get used to it."
On the other hand, the media buying fraternity thinks that the move is positive. Avinash Pillai, National Buying Director, Mediacom observed that while the quarterly data does not offer a lot of changes in terms of readership numbers but it is good time frame to identify trends especially for media such as radio and internet.
Adding to that, Hariharan Vishwanath, National Head, Buying, MEC, said that this is a step in the right direction. However, he feels that the quality of the output should be improved as well and clients will view this data in a more useful light.
The industry is still gauging what this addition dose of data would eventually mean to them, and how best it could be utilised. In the meanwhile, there clearly is more that Media Research Users' Council and Hansa Research have taken on their shoulders to ensure that the frequency of the data doesn't come in the way of solving the various problems that the IRS was in any case facing.