Perspective | IRS disappoints publishers again

There has been a lot of hullabaloo about the IRS 2014 in the last one week. Some publishers were happy with their numbers while many others including top dailies like TOI, Amar Ujala, The Hindu and so on have rubbished the Readership survey. Well clearly the big ones wouldn’t have got good revenue if they didn’t have numbers. Indeed that’s a different game altogether.

The Media Research Users Council has been providing with IRS data on a quarterly basis and now will be a ‘once a year’ survey. Indeed a good note for publishers.

In the midst of all the chaos around IRS, we at Adgully caught up with industry stalwarts to know about their opinion on the latest developments.

Paritosh Joshi, Techcom Chairman for the MRUC said, “The IRS is designed and overseen by a Technical Committee comprising representatives from across the stakeholders' spectrum.  The old study was seen as flawed and susceptible to being compromised. We designed the new study precisely to plug all the holes.  At various points RSCI and MRUC have explained that the study post 2013 shouldn't be directly compared or indexed to the earlier periods. This advice has been largely ignored.”

He adds, “The JICs involved can and should be held accountable for soundness of methodology and integrity of execution. The outputs are what the sample says. Stakeholders demanded third-party validation and audit to ensure that the entire process was above board. A detailed exercise was conducted by Magic9 and the study passed the test.”

Lastly, he mentions that, “It is important to remember that media need measurement for a wide variety of reasons. It is not clear what will be gained by stymying the IRS. Given that the competing medium, Television, is set to launch a huge measurement initiative, it seems almost foolhardy to treat a study with over two decades of history so shabbily.”

On asking about the importance of IRS at an era where digital is growing and print is declining a senior industry member from a regional publication on condition of anonymity commented, “There are few questions being raised. How come there is huge swing in readership suddenly that too favoring all those dailies who protested‎. Why still five main leading dailies like Dainik Jagran, Dainik Bhaskar, TOI, ABP and Amar Ujala protesting?”

He adds, “In this scenario how can a planner justify his spends to print which eats away. Major share with little reach and that too with a data which is not accepted by Media owners.”

He concludes by saying that Digital definitely will take an advantage of this without any doubt.

Janardan Pandey, Director - Nett Value Media Pvt Ltd said, “The IRS is a fairly credible source of information for media agencies to plan print campaigns & strategies campaign effectiveness. It's the valuable source to understand and analysis the print media along with other media consumption & household profile. An absolute majority of media planners & advertisers we interact with trust IRS and its findings as always.”

He adds, “The new IRS has whole lot of realignments & improvement in overall survey mechanism keeping the market realities & stakeholders need as utmost priority.”

Sharing some key points to which IRS is a good survey Pandey said, “Like any other random sample based survey, IRS too will have variations in its estimate & if not then there is something wrong with it. We need to practically analyze the data keeping in mind term called standard margin of error and theory of probability. It's not a census survey doing absolute count.”

“Secondly, it's a trust based survey and not based on evidence hence there will be many observations which may defy our personal logic but they must be recorded and presented as claimed by respondent with zero interference or punctuations by surveyors,” he went on to add.

He also said, “Before we comment of Methodology, we must understand it. The methodology cannot evolve basis whims and fancies of individual assumptions and customize itself to throw output suitable to each of the entities involved. The people who use the research have all the intellect & band width required to read the data with attached or inbuilt shortcomings as part of the process. The most important thing is that the decided mechanism is strictly followed when data is being collected, fed & processed without any external influence or human interference.”

He further adds, “We must follow the advisory and guidelines of the usage of the data which is must because we can’t buy a scientific product or service and use it or analyze it the way we wish. The moment we do that, cruel jokes such as IRS is reporting zero readership of Hitavada in Nagpur happen. Indeed these are no facts but fiction. The estimates of readership have no co-relation with circulation. ABC is a physical circulation measurement currency & not a tool or basis to measure readership. We can always compare them independently but can't combine to analyze it in togetherness while planning. To make it straight I am saying that Hitavada readership is not zero but it’s not reported. To know why please simply read the user manual/guidelines attached to IRS data.”

“Media consumption pattern is passing through huge changes and we should be ready for surprises contrary to our self-belief.  At the end we must know that 2.5 lacs odd / even sampled respondents are not media pundits and they won't fall in line ever to our likings & there will always be identifiable difference in the output of independent public research and commissioned syndicated research. Most importantly, the data can become more robust and stable if we have larger sample size. All the stakeholders should come forward and make the right investments to take the IRS to higher levels as we all desire,” he adds.

Lastly he said, “In my opinion we should not hurt the currency any further and rather work on strengthening it to make it truly gold standard. If we damage the currency it will damage the economy - in this case the economy is print media.”

On asking Indranil Roy, President and Publisher, Outlook Group about the importance of IRS, Roy said, “Readership survey is very important, but not the way it is currently being conducted. With the number of anomalies that are there, it is unattainable by the body. Particularly for valuing, they do not have an answer. So from a magazine perspective, the numbers that we get is not fair for the simple reason that magazines have national circulation while dailies have geographic circulations and one cannot mix the two.”

While we see digital growing with print, Roy is of the view that Print is not declining. He says, “If you see the overall numbers of IRS as well, the numbers have been growing, even though marginally for most of the newspapers and magazines. The other point that is important is that in the digital age being hyped so much is because of the revenue in terms of shifting. The second point that is important is that fragmentation in the digital space because it needs to be monitored globally and not geographically. So there are issues yet and time to come will look at that as well, but print is definitely not declining in the country, it is growing.” By Archit Ambekar | Twitter: @aambarchit



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