Print research problems in India are massive, and the one thing that many experts point out about print research in India is that while the Indian media industry has evolved manifold in the last few decades, print research is still where it was. Mastheads and lengthy questionnaires are still the tools with which research experts attempt to engage the New Age reader, and many believe they are not doing a successful job of that.
The second clear problem in the industry is the availability of multiple currencies, where the publisher and the advertiser can view data in whichever way suited them the best. The situation has changed in the last couple of years, where the National Readership Survey (NRS) has seen too many problems, including lapses in the research dateline. The Indian Readership Survey (IRS) is regular and there for the industry, but publishers question many of its findings. The recent development there even saw the likes of NaiDunia Media take the IRS to court.
Amit Ray (CSO, BAG Films) had said at the recently concluded Indian Newspaper Congress 2008 that time for discussion was over. It was time to take some action. The Media Research Users’ Council (MRUC) is taking that advice. MRUC has tabled some issues and nuances of print research in India with the Indian Newspapers Society (INS), and has recommended to the INS that the MRUC together with INS worked towards creating a task force, that also included advertisers and advertising agencies, that would create guidelines and parameters of what print research in the new India should be, and what should be the priorities in putting together a more robust research structure in place.
Sabina Solomon, General Manager, MRUC, explained, “Readership research has many limitations, and we have been battling this for a long time. India has a large, heterogeneous population and you need a sample that would be representative of that. Even increasing the sample size by 10,000 means a cost implication, and IRS is not a pre-funded research.”
Further elaborating, she said that yet another problem for research in India was to be able to speak to the socio-economic class A+, where researchers found it difficult to even enter buildings, let alone the houses of this sample size. Also, research today needs to be able to capture other elements like engagement for magazines and so on. The problems ranged from new day research to medium to country, she said, adding, “We should be able to do justice to research given the situation at hand.”
Solomon further said, “We are seeing that print readership is showing a decline when average issue readership is seen. Is there some phenomenon that is taking place, where readership of a single publication is going down? How do we look at the whole evolution in the space and better understand these changes? We believe that publishers have the largest stake in this, and that we should be able to work together. We met the INS to ask them how we can make print research more responsive to the market place, and where all stakeholders have a role to play.”
The INS officials couldn’t be contacted to get their views on this meeting, or to get a picture on where the NRS stood amid all of this. Some INS officials stated that they still had to consult many of the INS members before they got back to the MRUC. However, the big issue that they have to work towards is how the NRS factored in this. The INS is attempting to put together a secretariat for the survey, but there hasn’t been much progress on that yet.