Mumbai: India will move a step closer to having a single print readership measure on Saturday when representatives of Media Research Users Council (MRUC), a not-for-profit agency that conducts the Indian Readership Survey (IRS), will make a presentation to the Indian Newspaper Society (INS), the representative body for print media.
Print line: A newsvendor in New Delhi. Media buyers say a single readership currency would suit the industry.
INS conducts its own readership survey, the National Readership Survey (NRS), but several media experts, who do not wish to be named, term this a “defunct property”. In the past, NRS has faced criticism on the authenticity of its results and, in 2006, it actually had to re-issue the results, making some changes.
IRS has its share of problems, too, and most publishers are unhappy with the findings of the first round of the survey for 2008 that showed declining readership numbers even for publications whose circulation figures had increased.
People familiar with the matter, who do not wish to be named, say MRUC is looking to change the way it captures data in an effort to make its survey more accurate, and that this will be discussed at the Saturday meeting.
Sabina Solomon, general manager, MRUC, confirmed the Saturday meeting. “The agenda is to share with them our thinking on the road map for the IRS in an atmosphere of mutual trust as the IRS obviously impacts print directly. As for methodological changes, the imperatives are different. Enhancement to the IRS methodology is an ongoing process, and the data per se has no bearing on it. Typically, enhancements to the methodology are to resolve certain issues in execution, capture some new behaviour observed, or to meet some additional needs expressed by users,” she said in an email.
A media buyer on MRUC’s board, who didn’t wish to be named, said a single readership currency would suit the industry, but only if this effort was governed by one or more users. Research shouldn’t be left to a research agency alone as is the case with NRS, this person added — it needs a user body that monitors its functioning.
Irrespective of what happens on Saturday, INS may not find it easy to drop NRS. Paresh Nath, deputy president of INS, and publisher of Delhi Press, says the chairman of the National Readership Survey Council, Sam Balsara, who’s also chairman at Madison Group, is in the process of setting up a secretariat and appointing a research agency to conduct NRS. Nath adds that IRS has been trying to address too many things, such as product data and details on consumption of other media, that dilutes the purpose of readership research.
The Saturday meeting isn’t about merging the two surveys, says Hormusji Nusserwanji Cama, speaking in the capacity of past president, INS, and publisher of the Mumbai Samachar. It will probably involve a discussion on change of methodology for IRS, he adds.
“INS needs to have a more meaningful dialogue with MRUC and discuss why the readership figures for most publications are down when circulation figures are going up,” he says.
A media buyer, who doesn’t wish to be identified, and who is affiliated to MRUC, says the agency could look at methodologies such as a diary-system (where readers keep a diary of their habits) or phone interviews. “I think it’s been the vision for most to have one currency for print readership. The industry spends huge sums on two separate surveys, which is unnecessary,” this buyer adds.
Advertisers such as Ajay Kakar, chief marketing officer (financial services) at Aditya Birla Group, too, say that one print currency means much less confusion. “It’s good if we all follow one barometer,” says Kakar, who adds that the credibility of one survey is much more important than having multiple surveys that don’t live up to expectations.
MRUC was founded in 1994 to address a growing feeling among advertisers that it did not make sense to only go by a readership survey that was partly controlled by print media firms and concerns about the validity of some of the data. In an effort to appease INS, MRUC last year introduced six INS members on its panel, which included Gargi Ojha from The Statesman Ltd, Rahul Kansal from Bennett, Coleman and Co. Ltd, Pralay Nanda from Lokmat Group, Pankaj Jha from HT Media Ltd (which also publishes Mint), Ravi Shankar from Dinamalar Publications Ltd and Peter Suresh from the Dainik Bhaskar Group.