A look at the major enhancements to the IRS 2017 Methodology

IRS 2017 has been reinforced with design, methodology, quality, and questionnaire enhancements to ensure the highest integrity of the data.

e4m by exchange4media Mumbai Bureau
Updated: Jan 19, 2018 8:54 AM

Coming back after a gap of four years, the Indian Readership Survey 2017, promises to be a robust survey that has the support of the entire industry and all the stakeholders.
In 2014, the study by Media Research User’s Council (MRUC) was heavily criticised with publishers even questioning the veracity of the numbers. However, IRS 2017 has been reinforced with design, methodology, quality, and questionnaire enhancements to ensure the highest integrity of the data. MRUC added a number of safety enhancement layers like GPS location of interviewers to track interviewers, enhanced audio recording, electronic C-forms of addresses, and flying squads for focused back-checks. The sample size for this study was up by 34% to 3.2 lakh households.  
“At the end of all these checks and scrutiny we are relatively confident that the quality of the data which has gone into the system and the report which will come out of that are fairly accurate and no major influence has been allowed to creep into the study. We can vouch for that,” said Radhesh Uchil, CEO, MRUC.

Shahsi Sinha, CEO, IPG mediabrands and a key member of MRUC said, "It’s a great product and has come out after sometime, but all care has been taken to ensure that there are no shortcomings. It is a sample survey done today and hopefully people will use the data maturely."
With the most recent 2017, MRUC and AC Nielsen have taken steps to plug all the leaks and prevent tampering at the data collection stage. MRUC also made sure that publishers are not tipped off about the survey points, thereby ensuring that the sample is unbiased. “There was a three fold increase in contacts on the ground done by MRUC compared to any of the previous rounds of the surveys. More than 1,500 actual interviews were verified,” said Uchil.
Terming IRS 2017 as something that couldn't be compared with its previous versions given the changed parameters of survey, N P
Sathyamurthy, Chairman – RSCI technical committee and Executive Director, DDB
Mudra Group said, "There
is no issue in comparing this data if there was no change in the methodology, sample
or the way we ask questions. A lot of it has changed and we haven’t changed it
because we wanted to just change it. A lot of it came from the publisher
community that has publishers, radio station, TV channels, advertisers and
agencies, these requests came from these stakeholders and which were valid.
Some people may be unhappy with these results but everybody cannot be number
One of the key features of the survey is the Code of Conduct that advises subscribers to comparing similar data and not indulging in malpractices by comparing apples and oranges. 
Here is a look at the highlights of the new and improved process: 
Security and Scrutiny

  • Tackling violation of norms on the field: Used Mobile Device Management Software to ensure that surveyors could only accept information and not modify it at any stage. All information was centralised at the Nielsen offices.
  • Leakage of Starting Points: Shifted to distributing C-forms electronically. This reduced the lead time for interviewers knowing where the interviews need to be conducted from 10-14 days to 3-4 days at max. This cuts down time available to bad actors to influence people on the ground.
  • Nielsen flying squads that did random checks on the field as surveys were conducted. 
  • VedSur conducted independent forensic quality checks for the data pouring into the Nielsen office if there were any outliers coming up. 
  • Third-party validation of 10 % of the data (35,000) audio recording to corroborate the data collected by the interviewers
  • The field force model was revamped to include 50 per cent of Nielsen staff
  • E&Y audited the entire survey process from beginning to end including the questionnaire, the implementation of the questionnaire, data collection. 
  • Internal MRUC field staff, agency personnel visited the field in the course of the field work 
  • Introduced batch-processing for interviews: Every interview was scrutinised by various parameters : audio checks, telephonic back checks etc. Based on those checks a batch of 24 interviews for every interviewer was validated, if the batch was below a certain threshold, then the whole batch was rejected and the interviewer was put on notice. 
Improved Capture of Information
  • Levels of Reporting: From 2017 edition of IRS subscribers will get Last one month, Last 3 Days, Last 7 Days, and Yesterday readership. 
  • IRS has also introduced Main and Variant categories for Newspapers
  • Radio listener-ship is studied at the town level instead of state level 
  • To reflect changing user behaviour, questions were revamped. 
  • Moved critical questions about readership upfront to get better responses from the people and not fatigue them with the questions. 
  • Added new products like cornflakes, sugar substitutes, green tea etc. And new categories like investment banking, insurance, medical health and lifestyle etc.

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