The Indian Readership Survey (IRS) 2013 was held in abeyance by 18 newspapers, which had called it ‘badly flawed’. Even as the 2014 IRS data shows that readership of India’s top 10 dailies grew by around five per cent, thanks to ‘the impact of the general election campaign on media consumption pattern during the IRS fieldwork’, many publishers have pointed out their dissatisfaction. Since the IRS data is widely used as the currency for buying and selling of advertising space in print media, will it not result in affecting the medium in the end?
The Times of India from the BCCL stable is one of the newspapers that do not agree with the reported numbers. Arunabh Das Sharma, president, BCCL, said, “We are not refuting MRUC or IRS, but the inconsistencies in the data and the methodology. We are not fighting because our numbers went up or down or my competitor got more share. Even after the promised change in gathering the data, the results are very inconsistent.”
DD Purkayastha, MD and CEO, ABP Group, is of the view that the print publishers need to regard IRS as an accepted system. “Whatever the faults were with the previous IRS, have been corrected. Accept it, and move ahead. If IRS also goes, what remains? We will be at the mercy of media buyer then,” he said.
Narendra Kumar Alambara, COO, Sovereign Media Marketing (Dina Thanthi), said, “The simple fact is that the ‘new’ IRS is not anything new. It uses findings from the previous round of surveys which had a whole lot of problems with it. So obviously, it will be a while before new strain of data starts coming in from the IRS survey. Till such time there will be certain anomalies that will pop up. Publications will continue to object to it in some form.”
He added, “We do have a methodology and process in place in terms of a readership survey which is an indicator of varied and wide country that we live in. Not for a minute am I saying that everything is right with IRS, there are some things that need to be ironed out. But in this country, going further by every 200km gives you a new perspective of languages or habits which cannot possibly get captured in the current survey. There will be issues which over time will get corrected. Till such time, people should use the IRS as a yardstick.”
Premjeet Sodhi, COO, Initiative, opined, “ Everyone is never going to be in agreement on the IRS but, that does not mean business will not run as usual. There are many drivers for the print business other than readership data.”
On the impact of having no accepted currency in the past year, BCCL’s Sharma noted, “The past year has been very good for print media, data or no data. But yes, these numbers do play a vital role since advertisers still invest 40 to 45 per cent of marketing budgets in this medium.”
Sodhi says that the extent of impact of ‘lack of agreement’ on IRS is different on different publications, depending on the lifestage of each publication and its approach to sales, and thus, each publication is using the IRS accordingly to drive its strategy.
“Given the fact that digital media is very tightly measured, BARC is going to measure television medium even better, print should not be the only suitor who is depending on ‘gut feel’ for ad revenues. It would be a big service to the print industry if all the key players sit down and figure out a method of avoiding the kind of spats we have had in the past,” surmised MG Parameswaran, president, AAAI, and ED, FCB Ulka.
Arunabh Das Sharma, president, BCCL
“We need a measurement currency that is transparent, and accepted by all parties: publishers, readers, clients, and planners.”
DD Purkayastha, MD and CEO, ABP Group
“If there is no measurement, and if experienced publishers keep refuting the data, print media will definitely suffer.”
MG Parameswaran, president, AAAI, and ED, FCB Ulka
“The new IRS methodology may have its issues, but it is the new currency and the quicker it gets accepted the better it will be for the print media business as a whole.”
Premjeet Sodhi, COO, Initiative
“As the IRS matures, the data will become more stable and robust and will serve the industry well.”
Narendra Kumar Alambara, COO, Sovereign Media Marketing
“I don’t think publishers are using readership data in the right spirit.”