As a cub reporter in 2003, I remember readership survey releases to be one of the most exciting story-break period for us. It would lead to the most heated discussions and the most hyper-tensed conversations, when the entire industry would be charged about who toppled who, who grew and who did not, and what was covered, in which perspective.
The National Readership Survey (NRS) struggled with problems of its own. And the Indian Readership Survey (IRS), though regular, had seen all kinds of charges thrown in its direction – from allegations of inaccuracies to outdated methodology or pointing out the fact that the measurement system did not differentiate between the dailies and the periodicals.
Print measurement has seen many challenges in India for the longest time, and finally 2009 was the year that created history, almost.
The National Readership Studies Council (NRSC) was all set to give itself another go, despite the recession. The NRSC had even managed to establish successful dialogue with Hansa Research for this. But members of the NRSC were unable to arrive at a consensus, and even as those conversations were taking place on the one hand, on the other hand, the NRSC had finally begun a conversation with the Media Research Users’ Council (MRUC). And then, the unprecedented happened. In August 2009, the two parties agreed that it was in the best interest of the Indian print industry to merge the NRS with the IRS and create a robust measurement system.
Any conversation – formal or casual – that we had had at the time with members of the Indian Newspaper Society (INS), the Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) or even the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) at the time was on how progressive this step was for the Indian industry.
The decision was truly welcomed by one and all, as it signalled the future thinking that was finally settling in the Indian print industry. The expectation was that sometime this year, the intention would manifest into action.
However, not only has there been no action on this front, there has been no public information by either of the parties on the way forward either. On being asked, the reply is that the process is still in a nascent stage. The members of the task force put together by the NRSC and the MRUC are Sam Balsara, Ashish Bagga, G Krishnan and Bharat Kapadia. It is understood that these four members continue to be in charge of making this merger finally happen. Anyone in the industry would second that this is one of the best teams that the fraternity members could have handpicked, given the determination of these individuals to contribute to the industry, and their experience in the domain.
And perhaps that is why there have been so many expectations in making this merger a reality. There obviously is a good reason for this effort taking its time. One did expect that, after all, to get a new system in place it takes time, but a year and still being in the nascent stage is where the worry is.
The bigger worry is in the fact that now there are industry conversations of the disagreements between the two parties. Some cite Section 25 of the company clause to say each aspect is taking too much time. Sandeep Goyal, while he was blaming the AAAI, did speak on the subject amongst the points he had picked for his election battle as AAAI President.
The IRS is growing, but still doesn’t recognise the difference between newspapers and magazines. The methodology has not necessarily changed with the changes in the industry.
And the question surfaces time and again – what has happened to the plans of the IRS and NRS merger. Will the industry be seeing the progress in print measurement as was hoped and discussed. I hope someone can give an elaborate ‘on the record’ reply to that, soon.
NRS & IRS to be merged; new body to be formed comprising members from MRUC & NRSC