Mumbai: Efforts are being stepped up to revive the annual National Readership Survey (NRS), not published for the past three years because of perceived anomalies, with another agency seeking to handle the mandate of a revamped NRS and surprising some in the process.
Mumbai-based Hansa Research Group Pvt. Ltd has joined AC Nielsen ORG-MARG Pvt. Ltd and IMRB International in making presentations before the National Readership Studies Council (NRSC), which had suspended publication of the annual report.
Hansa currently handles the rival Indian Readership Survey (IRS), a biannual print readership study that has been commissioned by the Media Research Users Council (MRUC) since 2003. Publishers say its entry into the fray could have ethical ramifications because advertisers and media buyers buy ad space in print publication based on readership figures published by bodies such as the MRUC and NRSC.
NRSC chairman Sam Balsara, who heads media specialist Madison Communications Pvt. Ltd, confirmed that Hansa Research had made a presentation to conduct NRS. Hansa did not respond to emails and calls from Mint.
MRUC general manager Sabina Solomon said, “They (Hansa) have decided that they want to pitch for the NRS. That’s their decision and not in our hands. Then again, we are free to look for another research agency.” If Hansa is chosen to conduct NRS, the agency would have to let go of IRS, she said.
The situation highlights the issues that continue to dog both competing readership surveys, according to media professionals, especially because IRS and Hansa have also been facing questions over their findings.
NRS used to be conducted by AC Nielsen before it was discontinued in 2006 because of suspected anomalies in readership findings. NRSC has representatives from the Advertising Agencies Association of India, the Audit Bureau of Circulation and the Indian Newspaper Society (INS).
IRS, too, has been getting flak from various publishers, with most publications being shown to post a decline in readership although their circulation has been growing. Magazine publishers say that IRS does not capture readership in newer emerging urban areas.
Some publishers are of the opinion that transporting Hansa to the new NRS will only replicate some of the problems that IRS has been facing.
Paresh Nath, deputy president of INS and publisher of Delhi Press Pvt. Ltd, says, “Firstly, it’s not ethical for Hansa Research to be involved with a competing study. Also, if Hansa is chosen as the agency doing the NRS research, they could replicate various ideas and processes associated with the IRS. They may go about conducting the research the same way. For publishers, the problems would remain the same.” Nath says that even if Hansa is chosen, there should at least be a year-long cooling-off period.
However, there are publishers such as Amitabha Datta, president, dailies, Anandabazar Patrika, who feel that Hansa handling the two surveys should not be a problem as long as they do it through separate teams. “As we’ve seen in the past, various publishers have raised issues with the IRS. What’s gone wrong in one research can be corrected in the other one by Hansa.”
Still, some media specialists say that the relaunch of a print study during economic doldrums may not be wise.
Says Chandradeep Mitra, president, Mudra Max, a unit of Mudra Communications, “Everyone’s trying to reduce research costs. I would really question the need to have two print researches at this point that try and answer the same questions.”