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Field work for IRS Q2 2019 has already begun: Ashish Bhasin

The Indian Readership Survey (IRS) Q1 2019 data showcases print’s growth story, with total number of readers increasing from 40.7 crore (IRS 2017) to 42.5 crore. Hindi readers have grown from 17.6 crore (IRS 2017) to 18.6 crore, while English readers has also grown from 2.8 crore (IRS 2017) to 3.1 crore. Regional readers have grown from 20.3 crore (IRS 2017) to 21.1 crore. 

Also, Internet usage has increased with India now, with active internet users standing at a total of 384 million. Online newspaper readership has also shown an increase with 107.8 crore readers. 

Magazine readership has also seen growth from 7.8 crore (IRS 2017) to 8.7 crore. 

Adgully spoke with Ashish Bhasin, CEO – Greater South and Chairman & CEO – India, Dentsu Aegis Network and Chairman, MRUC, and Vikram Sakhuja, Group CEO, Madison Media & OOH, Madison World and IRS Technical Committee Chairman, to know more about the key trends and observations on IRS Q1 2019. 

What are the key highlights of IRS Q1 2019 data?
Ashish Bhasin: I have been saying for a long time – and IRS data has supplemented that – that India is the only major market in the world where all media is growing. Digital, of course, is growing much faster than the rest. TV viewership is also increasing, thanks to electrification. But while print is declining in the rest of the world, it is actually growing in India. When you look at it, there is a logical reason for it, readership is the function of two things – one is literacy and the other is disposable income. As the economy is growing more, people are coming out of poverty. Literacy levels are also increasing due to various schemes by the government. So, it stands to logic that this country is an exception and in the next few years, we are in a happy position where media consumption will see growth. 

Why was the IRS data delayed this time?
Vikram Sakuja: The reason for the data being delayed was due to reasons beyond our control – the floods in Kerala, the Phulwama attack and India being such a vast country. It’s just been delayed by 3 months, but we have been able to come out with the first quarter numbers. 

The process starts off with the Census of India and from that we craft a sample frame. We then break it into metros, class 1 towns, then go down to lesser towns, Tier 3 and 4 – exactly like how the Election Commission does. Every town/ metro is visited once every quarter and when it comes down to 1 lakh+ to less than 1 lakh town, each of this is visited once in every 4 quarters. When it comes to rural, it has to be projected to the region or the state they belong to. This is how broadly the sample is made of. The process of survey has now become automated. 

Earlier, there was some concern that the IRS was not capturing the digital penetration that well. Even when the 2017 data came out, we felt that the actual digital penetration was much higher. I would like IRS to be the one-stop shop for all media. 

However, we have done a better job of representation of some of the upscale houses and we have seen pretty much across-the-board better reading and understanding of English. To some extent that may be the natural evolution of the way India is progressing. Twenty years ago, hardly anyone spoke English in China, but now everybody does, now we are seeing an organic growth where people are speaking English more and understanding English more. We have captured through our upscale interviews a segment that is otherwise tough to get into. 

How do you view the growth in English readership?
Ashish Bhasin: If you look at the demographics, the number of English speaking people or people who understand English is increasing in urban as well as rural areas. Readership is the function of knowing the language, one of the things that has contributed to the growth in English readership is that more number of people now speak in English or aspire to learn the language due to rise in literacy levels. The universe of English has grown due to this. 

The general trend that we have been seeing for the past few years is that regional and Hindi are growing faster than English. 

Will IRS also measure distribution in the coming times?
IRS only measures readership, while ABC measures distribution, both should show a similar direction. Both have large databases – 325,000 households surveyed every year. Soon technology should be able to make both come together, or merge it and as an industry we should make it happen. This would be an ideal situation for a brand, and as I had said last year, we must do it. But we haven’t been able to due to various reasons. 

From here on, IRS will be published every quarter to make it a continuous rolling average. Even as we have released the IRS Q1 2019 data, field work for the next quarter has already started and we should be able to get it out in July. 

Industry Speak 

Sudhir Kumar, Director - Offline Media, DCMN India:
“We are glad that the fresh IRS Q1 2019 numbers have come out as the media planning for the print was running on the 2017 data. The numbers have brought a fresh perspective as they clearly indicate that the print readership is increasing. The medium is still trusted by millions of Indians across the country and the new numbers are a strong testimony to that. MRUC has taken a lot of steps to ensure that data collection for the survey is done at a robust level and is digitised to reduce the chances of human error. Taking a granular look at the data, the overall readership of the top 20 dailies has increased and parallel to it there has been a spike in the overall readership numbers for top 10 English dailies. This is a good sign for the brands looking to invest on print medium to reach out their audiences. Today, it is not just the traditional advertisers, but a lot of new age brands/ digital first brands are also using print as a medium to reach out to their audiences, the new numbers will provide them a lot of trust in the medium.” 

MV Shreyams Kumar, Joint Managing Director, Mathrubhumi Group:
“It is most encouraging to see a spurt in readership for us in the IRS Q1 2019 data. It indeed is quite very promising that we added 11 lakh readers and improved our ranking from 15 to 11 among Top 20 dailies ranking, which is commendable.”

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