Print players have noted several anomalies in the latest Indian Readership Survey (IRS) after analysing markets such as Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, and Haryana. This has raised several questions regarding the methodology and mechanism on which this report is prepared.
MRUC has said that it will take up the various issues raised by the print publishers in writing and close it by the end of next week.
The latest IRS has seen tremendous change in the way all print publications have performed. Some of the key indicators include:
• The overall market is shown to be behaving in asynchronous manner with sudden spurts of growth in some markets, juxtaposed with sharp decline in others, leading to serious concerns on the veracity of base-lining and the sanctity of readership survey process execution on the ground.
• There is arbitrary decline of aggregate readership ascribed to certain media groups in a targeted manner. Almost 90-95 per cent of Indian newspapers are negatively affected.
Sources from the print industry shared the data, which shows how particular publications lost their Average Issue Readership (AIR) in a drastic way in some states.
One of the leading Hindi dailies in Uttar Pradesh, which has been consistently in the third position for last several quarters, shows a gain of as much as 50 per cent as per the latest IRS, adding around 70 lakh readers. On the other hand, the daily that has maintained a steady growth in recent years and occupied the No. 4 position, has lost around one lakh readers. What is interesting to note here is that the UP market has seen none of the existing newspapers either launching new editions or closing any edition in the last one year or so.
The situation in Uttarakhand is no different with the major print players witnessing as decline in readership of as much as 40 per cent in the last one year. The most circulated Hindi daily of the country registered a drop of little over 40 per cent, while the most prominent daily in this region saw a steep decline of around 60 per cent.
The latest IRS figures for Jharkhand, which has been eyed by all major print players as a lucrative market, belie the optimism of the print industry. According to the data, all the three leading dailies in the state have see a fall in readership as compared to the last IRS. This has left experts wondering if all the big players have seen decline in readership, where have those readers gone?
In the West, Gujarat has seen a lot of ups and downs, with the No. 1 daily being dethroned by the No. 3 and in the process losing more that 7 lakh readers. In fact, the No. 1 daily has seen as loss of around 30 per cent in the major cities of Ahmedabad and Surat.
The Maharashtra market has also seen a gross decline in readership, with the leading Marathi daily seeing a loss of around 15 lakh readers, while the No. 2 player has also seen a 17 per cent decline. Industry experts say that this general decline is not borne out be ground realties of circulation and trade understanding.
The situation is no better in the Southern markets. In Karnataka, all leading Kannada dailies have dropped significantly by as much as 40-50 per cent.
In Tamil Nadu, the most read English daily has lost almost half of its reader base, while a leading Tamil daily has lost as much as over 14 lakh readers.
The Andhra Pradesh market too has seen overall degrowth in newspaper readership across languages, with as much as 45-50 per cent decline. AS Raghunath, a consultant with one of the Telugu dailies, remarked that the latest survey has been done in a hurry in order to meet the deadline. “There was no proper back check done. Some of the newspapers that hadn’t featured in the top 15 in the previous survey are now in the seventh rank,” he pointed out.