Media owners and agencies have for the longest time expressed their doubts and discontent over the research findings and methodologies of research companies - be it TAM, which measures television viewership, or IRS, which measures print readership in the country. TAM's LV Krishnan, Hansa Research's Ashok Das and ITC's Mahmood Ahmed gave their take on the debatable issue.
Das in his presentation attempted to answer questions such as 'Does media research underplay numbers?'; 'What's holding research back?'; 'Who should pay for research?'; and 'Whose responsibility is better media research?'.
The proportion of literates reached by the press in India in the top eight metros is comparable with countries such as the UK and France. This proportion is exceptionally lower in the rest of the country. In order to prove that research mirrors facts, Das presented some statistics. While the all India population grew at a CAGR of 2.5 per cent over the past three years, the number of literates during the same period grew by 3.8 per cent. Print reach during this time grew by 2.3 per cent. Meanwhile, television grew as much as 12.5 per cent during this period.
He added that within print, the overall reach of print is growing but the regularity with which it is consumed is declining. "The growth in print is lower among the younger people and very high among older age groups. The intensity of consumption has gone down and so has the time spent," he said. These, he said, were the facts that the industry must acknowledge.
Das also accepted that given the diversity of the Indian population, one needs to look at research by state, city, SEC and gender. However, to implement the same, the research bodies need larger funding to add samples, deploy better interviewers, increase extent of quality audits and provide incentive to respondents to participate in the survey.
The per capita spend on media research in the country is 6 per cent, whereas the global average is 14 per cent. In his opinion, all stakeholders - the media owners, advertisers and agencies - must pay for it.
Ahmed of ITC complained that media research in India was dominated by print and television, ignoring the other media which get only token attention. For the media measurement to grow, both vertical and horizontal growth is needed. "Vertical growth will come from inclusion of new media and horizontal growth will come from going beyond numbers. Researchers must plug the gap between investments and returns," he said.
Some of the key media that need to be measured in his opinion are out of home, on the go, word of mouth, point of sale and social networking.
Krishnan of TAM said that there is a lack of trust between the user and the research provider. "More time is spent debating on the methodology than gaining insights. We get asked questions such as do you really have 8,000 meters? We get comments such as the technology is outdated and not transparent," he said.
Instead, he urged people to look at trends and insights that the research throws open. Elderly members in homes are now becoming larger consumers of TV and 25 per cent of the bottom 50 per cent advertisers in 2000 were in the top half in 2010. These were some of the facts he drew attention to. Broadcasters must sit up and face reality and make good use of data such as the change in content track, effectiveness of on-air marketing promos, impact of power cuts and editorial coverage.
"There is a need to accept failure and upgrade. We have all kinds of data available - like the one that tracks eye stickiness for on-screen brands. One needs to carefully look at them and make amends," Krishnan concluded.