A closer look at IRS Q1 2019 data

Hindi and language publications continue to lead the Print growth story

e4m by Ruhail Amin & Tasmayee Laha Roy
Updated: Aug 21, 2019 4:31 PM

Those who thought print media was under siege with the rise of digital, need to think again. The latest Q1 data of Indian Readership Survey (IRS), which was released by Media Research Users Council (MRUC) on Friday, has yet again shown an upward trend for print consumption.

According to latest IRS data, which incidentally is the world’s largest readership survey, the dailies have added 1.8 crore additional readers since IRS 2017, while magazines added 90 lakh readers. Hindi dailies alone have added 10 million readers, while English dailies have added 0.3 crore readers in the same time period.

Resurgent Print IRS 2017, which came out after a gap of four years, re-established the power of print. When the survey was out, the print players had added 11.2 crore readers in four years, taking the overall print readership to 40.7 crore. The number has now reached 42.5 crore.

These numbers defied digital pundits who had predicted the demise and growing irrelevance of Print. If IRS 2017 marked the resurgence of Print, the latest results have shown that Print is not only here to stay but is thriving.

There are few unmissable patterns if we look at the cumulative numbers of IRS data of 2017 and 2019. Foremost is the rise of vernacular press. Hindi and language publications continue to lead the Print growth story.

As per Q1 IRS 2019, Dainik Jagran continues to lead among the top 20 dailies in terms of last 1 month read (Total Readership) as well as read yesterday (Average Issue Readership) [12+ years, Urban+Rural]. Dainik Jagran has garnered Total Readership (TR) of 73,673,000 in Q1 IRS 2019, compared to TR of 70,377,000 in IRS 2017. Dainik Jagran’s Average Issue Readership (AIR) stood at 20,258,000 in Q1 IRS 2019, a marginal increase from 20,241,000 in IRS 2017.

In the top 20 list, Dainik Jagran was followed by Dainik Bhaskar, Amar Ujala, Daily Thanthi and Lokmat in the top 5.

The regional media was indeed happiest with the latest IRS data.

"I am glad, that Lokmat has jumped to 5th position from last year’s 6th, the only Marathi publication listed in the Top 5 dailies in India (all languages). It clearly shows our readers’ trust, confidence and faith in true journalism. We at Lokmat have always had a pulse of our audience and that is reflected in the fact that we are the No.1 Marathi newspaper in India, No.1 newspaper in Maharashtra and extremely happy to retain the No.1 position in Pune. I take this opportunity to congratulate the Lokmat team for believing in themselves and thank all our readers, advertisers and partners for their trust and continued support,” said Karan Darda, Executive Director, Lokmat Media Group.

Coming to English, The Times of India has retained its Number 1 position. It recorded a total readership of 1,52,36,000 in IRS 2019 Q1 against 1,30,45,000 of total readership in IRS 2017. The Times of India was followed by The Hindu and The Economic Times.

Even the readership of print magazines has witnessed sustained growth, all pointing towards a vibrant print growth and readership story.

There has been a growth in magazine readership from the IRS 2017 report to IRS 2019 Q1 with 0.9 crore additional readers.

“Delighted to see that IRS validates our unshakeable belief in credible content. The discerning consumer today, more than ever, seeks transparency, facts and well-researched perspective. The reinvented India Today magazines have made their mark in both English and Hindi.  I’m happy that they stand apart as the medium of choice for the intelligent Indian,” said Aroon Purie, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, India Today Group.

But while data showed dips and surges in print readership, how has IRS changed overall? The data released by IRS in 2017 and 2019 also makes a steep departure in terms of methodology used. From increase in sample size and use of new technology and new standards of field controls, the re-imagined approach addresses the concerns of some publishers, who had in 2014 complained about “shocking anomalies” in the data.

Also, the IRS will now be releasing quarterly data which was a longstanding demand from the industry stakeholders. This will not only help advertisers get more relevant data but will also help publications to relook at their growth strategy in a more and realistic way.

“I am extremely satisfied with the release of this round of IRS. In particular, we have used technology to infuse a totally new standard of field controls. The resultant data is robust and representative of the diversity and heterogeneity of our wonderful country. Overall media consumption, and Print in particular, is vibrant and growing. Most stakeholders should be encouraged with this snapshot of how India is consuming media and Print,” stated Vikram Sakhuja, CEO Madison Media and OOH, and member of IRS technical committee.

In today’s cluttered media environment where we are witnessing unprecedented information overload, constant trickling of news updates and shrinking attention spans, Print offers a differentiated platform. The loss of contextuality across digital platforms has kept print relevant.

According media experts, a print story gives a contextual understanding of any subject which a Tweet, WhatsApp Forward or a Facebook Post cannot provide.

It was only earlier this month that the print media came together to establish the authenticity of their medium.  With the advent of the new media, print has often being ridiculed for being slow and stale. But with fake news menace clogging the information chambers, print has clearly had an upper hand in staying closer to the truth. The medium launched a campaign clearly targeting the digital media, mostly social media, by highlighting the importance of the printed word.

In the beginning of the new fiscal, all major dailies carried a full-page advertisement ‘Print is Proof’. According to this campaign, signed by bigwigs in the print media, including the likes of The Hindu Group, Hindustan Times, The Times of India, Dainik Bhaskar, Print is still the most reliable source of news.

While the print story in the rest of the world might be losing to digital, in India, the medium is still being celebrated and will continue that way for years to come. The Q1 IRS data has re-established Print as a resurgent, consistent and robust platform and for the naysayers who wrote obituaries for print, it’s time to rethink.

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