After releasing the new Indian Readership Survey (IRS) data in Mumbai on January 28, MRUC released the readership numbers in Delhi a day later. Following this, quite a few print players have expressed their discontent with the numbers released. When some of them said that the previous survey was much better than the latest IRS, Paritosh Joshi, Chairman, Technical Committee, MRUC asked them not to compare the previous research to the latest one.
The print publishers contend that though the print industry will adopt the latest survey numbers, media planners will still compare the data for both the years and draw their inference.
Citing an example, Ameet Kumar Sharma, National Head, Circulation, The Tribune pointed out, “One of the English dailies in Mumbai according to RNI certification has 1.2 lakh circulation, however, the IRS readership shows 5 lakh. How is this possible?” He further said, “According to the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC), we are growing on a regular basis, but IRS figures suggest that we have lost an Average Issue Readership (AIR) of around 2 lakh. Who can explain this to us? Our readers and consumers will get affected by this survey.”
In response to the issues raised by the print publishers, Ravi Rao, Chairman, MRUC asked them to send a note to MRCU with their point of view and opinions in writing. “We will reply each one of the letters by the end of next week,” he said, adding that MRUC is prepared to have face to face interactions if needed.
Print players’ POV
AS Raghunath, Senior Print Media Consultant for Prabhat Khabar, Sakshi and DNA felt, “The 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.”
Raghunath also pointed out that the report indicates that there is decline in the print industry per se. On the other hand, the World Association of Newspapers and International News Media Marketing Association feel that India is a country where print is surviving. “As a publication, we will take it up with our own body and lodge a protest,” he added.
Along similar lines, The Tribune’s Sharma noted, “It is a completely contradictory currency that has come out. According to another currency, the ABC, we are growing. The IRS has completely shaken our trust in this currency. We are going dive deep as it is too early to comment since the complete results are not out. We are analysing the data and questioning how there is so much difference between last year and this year.”
Meanwhile, on a different note, Shantanu Bhanja, CMO, HT Media strongly supported the current IRS results and felt that the technical committee and the process are extremely strong. “That was the whole idea of doing it and it can’t be compared with the previous survey,” he maintained.
Bhanja further said, “As far as the process is concerned, there is every reason to believe that the questionnaire methodology is much more credible and it will respond with some numbers that you may or may not like. Therefore, we should look in the forward direction. The readership survey gives a chance to set trends and recalibrate the market.”
Suresh Srinivasan, Vice President, The Hindu was one of the first to raise concerns regarding the process. He said, “We have lots of reservations on it, there are lots of errors and gaps that we need to understand. Several publications have shown huge decline; while the MRUC says you should not compare with the previous data, but I think the media planners will definitely want to do that comparison, which compromises the position of several publications.”
Srinivasan further pointed out that several language publications have also taken huge beatings, with the South been more deeply affected as compared to the West or North. “These are some of the things that the print players are worried about,” he added.
Meanwhile, coming to the defence of the latest IRS, Arvind Kalia, National Marketing Head, Patrika Group commented, “The present IRS has achieved its declared objective of eliminating non-sampling errors from field work and effective use of CAPI methods.” Incidentally, Rajasthan Patrika has seen growth in the current survey.
When asked about the print players’ discontent with the latest survey, Paritosh Joshi told exchange4media, “I think it is because the outcome is not what they would have wanted to see. We don’t operate on outcomes, we operate on the process. We don’t operate on the numbers directly and don’t have control over the readership numbers. Our job ends the moment the technology is finalised. We supervise the process to ensure it is being conducted with the highest standards of integrity. I can assure that those standards of ethicality have been met through the research.”
Joshi also highlighted, “We have done with whatever resources we have and even this data is very reliable and robust. You may not have seen such as consumer classification. We need to identify what are the attractive features of the audiences rather than looking up for numbers. We need to see the anatomy of these numbers and see what lies beneath these numbers and use that as the selling point.”