Following the hue and cry raised by various sections of the media over the data released as part of the NRS 2006, the NRSC met publishers and agency members in Mumbai on September 13, 2006 to address the various issues raised by them. Though there has been no definite outcome of the meeting yet, but steps like a separate module for magazines has been planned for next round.
Publications like Rajasthan Patrika and Hindustan Times were clear that if the issues weren’t resolved, legal action would be contemplated.
Also present at the meeting were Jagran Group’s M M Gupta, Rajasthan Patrika’s Gulab Kothari, India Today Group CEO Ashish Bagga, Outlook’s Raj Mohan, Sivakumar from The Hindu, Peter Suresh from the Bhaskar Group and a delegation from Hindustan Times comprising Rakesh Sharma, Benoy Roychowdhary and Anand Bhardwaj, among others.
Agencies were also present full force. There was Shashi Sinha, CEO, Lodestar Universal present with Arpita Menon, VP of the agency; Mudra’s Chief Madhukar Kamat and Madison Media’s Kartik Sharma. The issues that were broadly brought on the table comprised pop strata, inconsistent and “illogical” trends seen in markets like Rajasthan, Chandigadh, Delhi, Ghaziabad, and Gorakhpur, etc.
The trend of the sharp readership decrease in the ‘Beyond top five metros’ or the rural markets and opposite trends in the ‘Top five metros’ or the urban markets was also discussed. Another issue was that of magazines coverage not being adequate. Some of the other points brought to the table included the use of concepts like Average Issue Readership and Claimed Readers, measuring town level data and influencing of data due of information known on fieldwork period.
Even as nothing definite emerged out of the meeting, Sam Balsara, Chairman of NRSC’s Technical Committee, said that the meeting was productive. He said, “We explained to everybody concerned the strict protocols followed and checks taken that finally lead to this data. In addition, E&Y is doing and independent statistical check. However, despite all this, there can be errors. Whoever has raised issues with us, we are looking at it will revert to them with a detailed answer. We have assured everyone that every single issue is being looked into and each would be individually addressed.”
On another note, he said, “It is not that this is the first time people are upset with the data. If something hasn’t gone in your favour, you will not accept it. NRS generates billions of figures and it is very easy for anyone to take a few out and cast a doubt on the NRS. The intelligent and mature users know what it is all about. They know how you use that data. That said, every user is valuable for us and of course it’s no co-incidence if they point fingers in the same direction.”
“Although NRS is the largest survey in the world, with a sample of 274,000 households, it is only 274,000 households. We believe this is reliable readership but it is still an estimate, not Census,” said Balsara.
One outcome of the meeting was the decision taken for a separate treatment to magazines in the next round. Balsara informed that given the growth of the structure in India and the fact that there was a separate association for magazines, the medium would be treated differently.
He said, “While on the one hand, there are widely distributed mass magazines, on the other hand, there are niche and high engaging, sparsely but relevantly distributed magazines. Estimating magazine readership is a challenge and we will have a different module in the next round.”
He reiterated that the NRS had increased the number of checks manifold. “There is a fulltime research person, who operates from the ABC office. We have Dr Sridhar, who advises on sampling and projection and technical details like that. There are clients who visit fieldwork and finally Ernst & Young run a series of checks at data entry level and field level to ensure that to the best of our abilities, any kind of error is eliminated.”
Dr Sridhar is a well-known researcher who was pulled in by the NRSC in 2004 when they were doing the “cleaning up act”.
“We do believe that the NRS approach indeed is the correct and right approach, given the volatility and dynamism of the media markets unlike rolling samples and averages. Everyone may be happy with that that kind of study but we want to project reality,” added Balsara.
Media owners are waiting for the NRSC to get back to them on the issues raised and NRSC officials have promised that this would happen soon. The talks continue. Would anyone sue, should talks fall through? That’s an interesting question.