Mumbai: Media Research Users Council (MRUC), a non-profit body that conducts and validates research on print media readership, is considering increasing the frequency of its biannual Indian Readership Survey (IRS) as it attempts to tie up with an Australian research partner.
MRUC wants to make the IRS a quarterly, or even a monthly, publication in the near future, according to two publishers from the Indian Newspaper Society and one advertising agency chief familiar with the development, who spoke on condition of anonymity. MRUC general manager Sabina Solomon did not confirm or deny the move. “A lot of new initiatives are being planned with regard to the IRS, but nothing has been finalized as of now...,” Solomon said.
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.
An agency chief, who is on an MRUC committee, explains, “What’s happening in the IRS currently is that there are 10 months of fieldwork when (readership) data is collected and two months of validation. Survey results are presented every six months.”
Increasing the publishing frequency of IRS would mean that fieldwork would continue as before, but validation and analysis of data would happen on a monthly or quarterly basis, he said, adding that reporting costs would go up significantly.
Paresh Nath, deputy president of INS and publisher of Delhi Press Pvt. Ltd, said he had heard about a move to increase the IRS frequency, but is not in favour of it. Print as a medium is not the same as television, and data once or twice a year serves its purpose and reflects (readership) changes adequately, Nath said.
MRUC is in talks with Australian research firm Roy Morgan Research Pty Ltd to conduct the IRS, Mint reported on 19 March.
According to Nath, MRUC’s bid to increase the IRS’ frequency stems from the fact that Roy Morgan has a single-source model that gives a reader’s product usage and psychographics data in more detail than the current IRS, along with media usage habits.
“When you are dealing in product data, then I guess it’s important to give live readings of what’s happening in the market,” said Nath, adding, “Since readership is also part of the overall survey, then you would naturally report on that too. It’s a part of the whole package.”
In the past few weeks, MRUC has had discussions with INS members and informed them that a survey with Roy Morgan would give them the opportunity to increase publishing frequency beyond the current six-month window, say publishers and the MRUC committee member.
The reaction from publishers, media agencies and advertisers to the proposed change is mixed. Some advertisers such as Ajay Kakar, chief marketing officer, financial services, Aditya Birla Group, approve of a more frequent IRS, as long as there is no compromise in the sample size of people being interviewed. “Advertising comprises a key share of my marketing budget and live data will always be appreciated,” Kakar said.
Lokmat Group publisher and director Bharat Kapadia agrees shorter the periodicity, the better it is for everybody. Media specialists such as Satyajit Sen, managing director (north), Zenith Optimedia Pvt. Ltd, however, wonder how media houses and publishers can afford the higher costs associated with higher-frequency reporting. But, he says media planners and plans would benefit from data that’s not as old as six months.
With this kind of all-round data available, publications would invest more in connecting with consumers and and planners would be able to gauge the results of their promotion activities right away, says Sen.
Nath of INS, however says that the IRS does not have the mechanism to track a lot of smaller regional publications. In fact, a lot of publications still get ads on self-claimed circulation figures and not on numbers presented by the IRS.
“This is totally unlike television, where the ad rate for a channel or programme is totally dependent on the rise and fall of ratings,” he says.