The long awaited decision on the latest Indian Readership Survey (IRS) data was taken Wednesday evening. The Media Research Users Council (MRUC) said the voluntary abeyance placed on the IRS 2013 has been lifted with effect from August 20.
“After intense deliberations and careful examination of the audit report, Chairman-MRUC, Chairman-RSCI [Readership Studies Council of India] President-INS [Indian Newspaper Society] and Chairman-ABC [Audit Bureau of Circulation], have arrived at a unanimous and unambiguous decision to lift the voluntary abeyance placed on The Indian Readership Survey, 2013,” the official press release said.
"We are glad that the revalidation process has been completed and hope that all stakeholders will now put the issue to rest and move on," said CVL Srinivas, CEO, GroupM South Asia, welcoming the decision.
The IRS 2013 data, which was released first on January 28, had evoked extreme reactions from publishers who did not agree with the results of the findings. Despite MRUC's advice to stakeholders against comparing the results with the old IRS survey, cautioning them that there has been a change in methodology and technology, leading newspapers demanded immediate withdrawal of the survey.
The RSCI's Managing Committee, at its meeting with the MRUC Board in Mumbai on February 19, decided to hold the IRS 2013 findings in abeyance initially till March 31 – which was later extended – and have the data revalidated by a third party.
This committee, after viewing several proposals, unanimously agreed to entrust the audit to Praveen Tripathi (Magic 9 Media).
The audit was conducted in two stages. Stage one involved direct back- checking of respondent homes, after which a much broader and deeper Forensic Statistical Analysis exercise was carried out to identify and isolate both fieldwork compliance deficiencies and the occurrences of Unusual Publication Incidence (UPI) in respondent-interview records. By sieving the aggregate data set for these issues, the audit was able to judge whether the statistical deviations systematically changed any of the crucial readership outputs. The outcome was conclusive and unequivocal; the study results had not been impacted.
“Data is always good, I see it as a positive development, the planning process for global brands start now for the festival media spends. It is good to have latest data when you plan. As an industry we have to move on, not having data is worse,” said Ashish Bhasin, Chairman and CEO, South Asia, Dentsu Aegis Network, reacting to the lifting of the abeyance.
Some felt the revalidation would not matter.
“It is too late for this year, the strategic planning for the festive season has already been done. By the time you refer to it for next year, it will be outdated and irrelevant. So, I don’t see it having a drastic impact,” said Amit Tiwari, Director and Country Head, Media & Digital, Philips India.
Whether the lifting of the abeyance will put an end to the controversy is not clear yet.
“There will always be some change – some gainers, some losers. [Everyone] should accept a new starting point, should work on making the product better rather than digging holes in the data,” felt Bhasin.