Mumbai: Media Research Users Council (MRUC), a non-profit body that conducts and validates research of print readership in India, is in talks with a potential Australian partner to conduct its biannual Indian Readership Survey (IRS), according to three persons familiar with the development.
The talks with Roy Morgan Research Pty Ltd to conduct the survey are at an advanced stage, said the people from the media industry who didn’t want to be identified.
MRUC general manager Sabina Solomon did not respond to an email from Mint on the development; nor did she take phone calls.
Executives at Roy Morgan did not reply to emails sent by Mint on Wednesday.
MRUC has been on the lookout for a new partner to conduct the IRS because its contract with research firm Hansa Research Group Pvt Ltd, which has been handling the survey, is close to expiring.
Advertisers and media buyers decide on ad space in print publications based on readership figures published by bodies such as MRUC and the National Readership Studies Council (NRSC), whose annual National Readership Survey (NRS) has not been published for three years because of perceived anomalies in its findings.
Hansa had made a presentation to NRSC to conduct the NRS, Mint reported in January.
Hansa’s managing director Ashok Das confirmed that the research firm had discussed the possibility of conducting the next NRS with NRSC.
Roy Morgan was founded in 1941 and also has offices in New Zealand, the UK, US and Indonesia, and is considered a well-established market research and public opinion company. Roy Morgan’s website states that it surveys people on lifestyle and attitudes, media consumption habits (including television, radio, newspapers, magazines and the Internet) and brand and product usage.
In essence, it promises a fleshed out profile of each individual surveyed in a depth not achieved before.
“We have been lacking a credible single-source survey for a long time,” said the chief of a leading media buyer who didn’t want to be identified.
The IRS was designed primarily to research readership figures and has over time half-heartedly delved into research of media consumption and product-ownership information of readers, he said. But all of the information is extremely sketchy and based on broad parameters, he said.
Roy Morgan’s survey model includes media, product and lifestyle parameters in its questionnaire and presents insights into readers and their consumption habits that MRUC could be looking to duplicate in India, he added.
Still, opinion on Roy Morgan’s suitability to conduct the IRS is mixed. Shashi Sinha, chief executive officer of Lodestar Universal Pvt. Ltd, says that any overseas research firm would need a local partner, given that the IRS is an extensive and complex survey.
L.S. Krishnan, president of media specialist Radar, Mudra Group, says field work would anyway be done by local hands so it should be possible for a foreign company to handle the mandate.
It would make more sense for MRUC to partner an international research company such as AC Nielsen ORG–MARG Pvt. Ltd, which has experience in the Indian market, says Paresh Nath, deputy president of the Indian Newspaper Society (INS).
“Also the IRS is only a few crores of business for any research company. It would barely cover the expenses for this Australian firm to set up operations in India,” he said.
Nath is also publisher of Delhi Press Pvt Ltd, which has sent MRUC a legal notice over the fact that no all-India readership numbers were released for its Hindi women’s fortnightly magazine Grihshobha in Round 2 of IRS 2008 which was published in November.
“Round 1 of IRS 2008 showed total readership figures of 75 lakh plus for Grihshobha Hindi and we were the No. 2 player in the magazines category,” said Nath. Round 2 contained no mention of the numbers for the magazine, he said, adding that MRUC had not responded to the notice sent on 2 March.
Delhi Press’ law firm Suri and Co. is working on getting a stay order on any further release of numbers until this matter is sorted out, he added. MRUC’s Solomon could not be contacted for comment on this matter either.