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IRS 2017: Advertisers should look at print with renewed enthusiasm: Anant Nath, Delhi Press group

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IRS 2017: Advertisers should look at print with renewed enthusiasm: Anant Nath, Delhi Press group

Indian Readership Survey 2017, one of the world's largest surveys, was released on January 18 after a four-year gap. The survey has sparked a number of reactions and discussions among the various players in the industry. It has brought the focus back on print media and the numbers indicate 9% growth in total newspaper readership in last four years. This positive print growth comes at a time when debates around the death of print aren't uncommon. Anant Nath, Editor, The Caravan & Executive Editor, Delhi Press Group chatted with exchange4media sharing his take on the same.Excerpts:

How would you interpret the IRS 2017 results?

I don’t have an explanation to be honest. Even though I’m part of the technical committee, I don’t think even anyone in the technical committee will be able to come up with a clear explanation. What one can guess, this is just a hypothesis, now that the survey has been conducted on a larger scale and with far greater accuracy in the methodology, overall it is just picking up better readership behaviour. I won’t say that this IRS is showing an increase in readership as much as I would say it is showing correction in the readership measurement. 
To say that magazine readership has increased by 95% is probably wrong, maybe the magazine readership was always higher or lower, who knows. But it is definitely giving a truer picture. So let us just take this as a starting point now and try and understand what is the overall trend that this readership is showing. Again, it is important to note that this is a survey and we know there will always be errors as survey can never be exact, it’s not a census. 
In the light of the new data, do you think the debate about print readership getting challenged by digital was over-hyped? 

I think readership is always under challenge because there is so much of more media. It is incorrect for us to say that there is growing readership. Magazines serve a fairly big market and the previous readership survey was showing a much smaller size of the markets. We were always confident that the previous readership numbers of magazines was far lesser than what the magazines were actually serving. Now this survey is showing a more accurate picture. To say that it means the magazines are growing will be an oversimplification, all media is under pressure.

Being a publisher of 33 magazines, in your opinion what are the factors behind this positive growth of print readership?

The biggest factors are very conventional factors—the ease of reading, the quality of consumption and the quality of understanding that a physical magazine enables far more than what a mobile will allow. Mobile is not the ideal medium to consume serious media. It is too distracting and it has got limitation of size too. Also, we all know the attention span is much lower on digital. Moreover, India is a growing literate market and it is not that we have reached a saturation point. For the foreseeable future, the print readership will continue to grow because there is immense potential in the market in terms of sheer numbers.
How do you see marketers reacting to new IRS Data? Do you see any significant change in terms of print magazine ad revenues?

A lot depends on the interpretation of both the marketers, advertising agencies and publication houses. I believe IRS should be one of the reasons but not the only reason on which to base the decision. I think there are other equally important criteria for making marketing decisions. So intelligent marketing will include these figures as one of the parameters and not the only parameter. Everybody would expect that advertisers will dispel some of their skepticism about print and look at print with a renewed enthusiasm. Over the last few years there has been a tendency to get carried away with the story of digital growth, but in that process they have probably ignored the effectiveness of print as it delivers today. As of today, print in India delivers a huge market and has immense advantage over any other media. I hope this survey reinforces that faith among marketers that the pie of the market that print delivers is huge and it is something that should take benefit of for their own advantage.

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