Last week when The Times of India (TOI) released a damaging animated video ('The TOI Challenge') trashing rival Hindustan Times' (HT) reach in Delhi, afaqs! got in touch with the latter for its comments. HT had refused to respond - and we now know why.
It has just released an amusing video response which describes TOI as the eternal crybaby. Playing on its rival's morning challenge, HT sneers that 'The Moaning Challenge' may be more appropriate.
Though readership is commonly used to calculate reach, TOI had tried to promote the use of circulation - a measure that has receded into the background over the years. Its adversary has seized on this to launch a counter attack by accusing it of double standards. HT's allegation: TOI chooses between IRS and ABC depending on what is convenient.
HT says that for the Delhi market, TOI plays up the figures of the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) while trashing the findings of the Indian Readership Survey 2013. If that be the case, asks HT, why is TOI not part of the ABC audit in the Mumbai market? That's because in that market TOI is happy to go with the findings of the IRS 2013 since the newspaper emerges at No 1 - as against Delhi where it has been beaten on readership.
The background to this spat is the Indian Readership Survey (IRS) 2013 which was released in January 2014. Following a major change in methodology, figures for many dailies appeared askew and though researchers kept emphasising that the data was not comparable with earlier surveys, publishers were furious. They calmed down only after the researchers placed the findings in abeyance and decided to relook the way in which the IRS had been conducted.
Last month, the authorities lifted the abeyance on the report stating that the findings had been revalidated - but only after all the industry bodies too had given the report their nod.
In its video, TOI had also accused HT of using its Hindi daily, Hindustan, to inflate its English readership numbers. In its response, HT says that that is exactly what its rival has been doing with its Hindi newspaper, Navbharat Times, in which the TOI masthead has been used repeatedly.
Addressing the TOI's contention about many missing Hindustan Times copies, the new video alleges that HT copies were prevented from reaching the market. 'We wonder who would gain by our copies going missing?' it asks, ending with, 'You decide'.
With both brands taking their gloves off, this looks like a spectacle that won't end in a hurry.