The IRS fiasco took another interesting twist on Saturday morning with the Times of India advertisement that read ‘The Truth shall prevail. Specially at 6am.’ The ad further read ‘You may have read some claims and counter claims about readership and circulation of English dailies in Delhi and NCR. But the truth simply is: for the ‘regular’ copies of the TOI and HT (i.e. fully loaded copies that carry supplements and are listed in ABC as single or combo) TOI is 38% ahead of HT.
The ad further invited readers to get a firsthand experience of the newspaper’s leadership by taking up the Times of India challenge, by contacting the TOI and visiting a newspaper depot.
Interestingly this is not the first time that the Times of India has challenged HT numbers, on Friday June 13th The Economic Times took on HT numbers with a provoking headline which read ‘ All Down & 0ut, HT Up and About, Media industry foxed.’ The report challenged HT numbers in no uncertain manner with statements like confrontational statements like “Even as most newspaper titles across genres show sharp declines, one media group has surprisingly bucked the trend across the board with a uniformly upward trajectory — the Hindustan Times group. Amongst the English national dailies, for instance, Hindustan Times saw its readership grow 13%. The three other top dailies (which had combined circulation almost three times that of HT in the 2012 round), all saw drops in readership. The Times of India fell by 5%, The Hindu by a staggering 32% and The Telegraph by a huge 26%.”
The report further stated, “If it wasn't odd enough that the HT group has managed to buck national readership trends across its Hindi, English and business dailies, it's done the same when it comes to another key statistic, readership per copy, or RPC (simply, the number of readers who read one copy of the publication). The RPC of Hindustan Times, for instance, is a staggering 17 readers per copy in Noida, and 12 in Gurgaon. This is similar for key markets such as Mumbai and Delhi as well for HT and Mint, which has an RPC that's double that of its nearest competitor in Delhi. Similarly, Hindustan has an RPC of 5.5, more than double that of rival dailies.”
In response to this HT published a story in the main edition of Saturday saying ‘TOI cannot digest readers’ message, shoots messenger’. With TOI’s second challenge to HT, what lies in store it seems the battle to prove leadership continues irrespective of IRS numbers.
“HT has had a product similar to HT 2 Minutes for several years now. Earlier it went by the name of HT Edge. The circulation of this product, as reported in ABC has been climbing steadily from 1.56 lakh in JD '10 (for HT Edge) to 2.78 L (for HT 2 Minutes) now. This is giving them an unfair advantage, as they are able to prop up their overall circulation number through this. Unfortunately most media planners don't bother to read through the details of the ABC certificate, and don't realize that a good per cent of HT's ABC number is for a product that doesn't necessarily carry their ads. (In fact, an analysis done by us for the first week of September '14 shows that only 28 per cent of the ads booked in the regular HT or its publications, were carried in HT 2Minutes).
We tried to explain this anomaly a few months ago through a print campaign, but an argument such as this probably demands a more detailed explanation, for which we felt this was needed,” said Rahul Kansal Executive President, Bennett, Coleman & Company, sharing the reason behind the launch of the challenge and its timing.
On August 20th the The Media Research Users Council (MRUC) said the voluntary abeyance placed on the IRS 2013 has been lifted with effect from August 20 in a press statement.
“After intense deliberations and careful examination of the audit report, Chairman-MRUC, Chairman-RSCI [Readership Studies Council of India] President-INS [Indian Newspaper Society] and Chairman-ABC [Audit Bureau of Circulation], have arrived at a unanimous and unambiguous decision to lift the voluntary abeyance placed on The Indian Readership Survey, 2013,” the official press release said.
With the announcement of the revalidation of data the MRUC’s hopes to provide closure to the IRS fiasco maybe misplaced, with discontented stakeholders, and TOI challenging HT numbers may only be the start of what is to follow.
(With inputs from Abid Hasan)