Vanishing readers and the absurdity of IRS numbers

Some of the major areas of concern for print players are - the steep decline in readership as per the latest IRS data, process of the survey, field work, methodology and transparency

e4m by Abid Hasan
Updated: Feb 3, 2014 9:15 AM
Vanishing readers and the absurdity of IRS numbers

Even as the broadcast industry is upset with the Television Audience Measurement (TAM) since the last two years for various reasons, including incorrect data, smaller sample size and wrong measurement, the print industry has been up in arms against the latest Indian Readership Survey (IRS) findings. While print players had been expecting a robust, error free and accurate data after a long period of no IRS, several anomalies have been pointed out in the latest IRS 2013 data.

Some of the major areas of concern for print players are – process of the survey, field work, methodology and transparency. Though MRUC has promised to solve the issue by the end of this week, print publishers are saying that damage has already been done.

As is known, as many as 18 print publishers have already issued a notice in public interest, highlighting the major faults in the latest results.

Some of the anomalies pointed out by the major publications are:
• Punjab has lost a whopping one-third of all its readers in just a year since the last IRS, while neighbouring Haryana has grown by 17 per cent.
• Every major newspaper in Andhra Pradesh, irrespective of language, has witnessed decline in readership by 30 per cent to 65 per cent.
• Mumbai shows a 20.3 per cent growth in overall English readership, while Delhi (a faster-growing city overall on all macro indices) shows a drop of 19.5 per cent.
• Hitavada, the leading English newspaper of Nagpur with a certified circulation of over 60,000, doesn’t appear to have a single reader now.
• Hindu Business Line has thrice as many readers in Manipur as in Chennai.

While talking to exchange4media, some of the print players present at the unveiling of the Delhi edition of the IRS expressed their concern over the decline of readership post this survey.

In order to solve the matter, the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) is likely to meet the Media Research Users Council (MRUC) to discuss the IRS findings and decide on further course of action.

Meanwhile, it is learnt that the MRUC has been given time till 4.30 pm on February 3 to withdraw the latest IRS data and refund the publishers’ money.

In its Kanpur edition dated January 30, 2014, Dainik Jagran had published, “Once again No. 1, but Jagran disapproves survey”. The daily added, “AC Nielsen had promised the survey would be based on computerised and scientific methods, but questions have been raised on that very promise and hence, Dainik Jagran has objections to the methodology and its results.”

Apart from Dainik Jagran, some more print players who have opposed the data include: The Times of India, Dainik Bhaskar, India Today, Anandabazar Patrika, Lokmat, Outlook, Daily News and Analysis (DNA), Sakshi, The Hindu, Amar Ujala, The Tribune, Bartaman Patrika, Aaj Samaj, The Statesman, Mid Day, Nai Duniya, and Dinakaran.

DNA has made its dissatisfaction with the latest IRS 2013 quite clear. The English daily has stated in its January 29, 2014 edition that “DNA contests data presented by MRUC, there’s a clear mismatch between survey figures and our database. DNA has a robust subscription base and we have names, contact numbers, and addresses of most of our readers, who have opted for a paid subscription scheme. This also shows our loyal reader database, which is extremely stable; we would, therefore, like to know the basis of the readings.”

This is not the first time that Nielsen’s survey is being questioned. Even many players in the broadcasting fraternity have voiced their concerns about Nielsen’s surveys in the past.

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