afaqs!

Points of View: Is IRS back on track?

By Devesh Gupta and Prachi Srivastava , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | April 01, 2015
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After Indian Readership Survey (IRS) 2013 figures were re-released in August 2014, Media Research Users Council (MRUC), which brings out IRS, has released the IRS 2014 figures. We quizzed industry stakeholders to find out what the figures mean to them? However, a lot of publishers and planners were reluctant to speak about it.

Media Research Users Council (MRUC) recently released the Indian Readership Survey (IRS) 2014 data. Despite IRS being a quarterly affair, MRUC has announced that IRS 2014 numbers will only be released 'once a year'.

But the bigger question here is whether the industry is ready to accept the IRS 2014 data or will it create another storm, as it did at the time of IRS 2013.

MRUC claims to have increased the sample size, revalidated the recent data, both internally and from an outside agency. But, will this be enough to gain the confidence of industry players?

Indian Readership Survey

The argument arises because the industry, including media planners, advertisers and publishers, had their reservations about the IRS 2013 data. It took a long time before RSCI was able to release those numbers. It may be recalled that as many as 18 publications had trashed IRS 2013 when it was released in January 2014. It was re-released in August 2014, after a revalidation process.

We spoke to industry experts to find out what their opinions were about the recently released IRS 2014 data. But, a lot of them were reluctant to talk about it.

Ashish Bhasin, ‎Chairman & CEO South Asia, Dentsu Aegis Network, Chairman Posterscope and psLive - Asia Pacific

Ashish Bhasin

I think it's a good sign that they have come out with the numbers. I hope that, going forward, there will be more of regularities and less of dispute. The settling down phase is over with this. I am optimistic on that. At the moment, I don't anticipate that anyone will have any issues because 9 out of 10 publications have seen an increase in their readership (at least the top 10 in each category) and most of the times, if the readership is going up, publications don't question it. Whatever it is, it is nice for the industry to have a regular authentic readership survey. So, to that extent, it's a welcome step.

Having said that, I am not surprised that the readership is going up. There are no substantial/significant changes, but in the time to come, you'll see that regional publications will continue to do well. It will depend player to player, but in general, I do see it as a high-growth area for years to come, which should reflect correctly in IRS data, going forward.

The numbers are what they are and there is no reason to mistrust the IRS. If there is no problem with the research, then these are the numbers on which we have to work. What agencies and clients are hoping is that we have a consistency in the periodicity of the numbers, and we don't have situations like last year where the research was not available for a while. As long as numbers are coming in consistently, and they are high-standard maintained by RSCI and MRUC, who gains or loses is not of importance.

Varghese Chandy, chief general manager, marketing, advertising sales, Malayala Manorama

Varghese Chandy

AJ Christopher

In my opinion, IRS 2014 is much delayed. It has come out in April 2015 and the field work was done in the first quarter of 2014. Secondly, it's a moving average, so it has just added to the 2013 sample. What we see is a reflection of 2013 than 2014. 2013 went through a hard time, so those things will never get corrected in 2014, because there is a quarter sample fight.

AJ Christopher, national head, marketing, Eenadu Newspaper

The overall macro as well as micro picture remains the same. There is a very marginal difference from what we saw last year. The industry needs a currency. And the whole idea of acceptance and non-acceptance is how favourably or non-favourably they have done in the findings. The whole wheel moves in that direction. Some publishers are happy while some are not. But, finally, the industry is looking at some benchmark on which it can operate. And, to a very large extent, the industry will try to latch on it as MRUC had called all the publishers for a meeting in Mumbai, where they were given an option to present what they felt was right and wrong, what needs to be better, to make the findings robust and acceptable. So now, whatever is happening, the industry is in agreement to it, because MRUC had provided a platform to put their opinions. And whatever best could be done, has been done. Even in the current scenario, there are certain points with which I am also not comfortable with, but then there has to be a macro indicator, which over the period can get better. And, we can do better than that in the times to come. So, we go with the existing number and make a head-start, so over the period, there could be change and iterations, and the whole thing can be fine-tuned.

Shantanu Bhanja, chief digital officer, HT Media

Shantanu Bhanja

Anita Nayyar

Yes, with this round, the IRS is back on track. The data has now been validated twice over, carefully back-checked and audited by independent external audit agencies, so it's time that we get on with this new IRS. Of course, some absolute numbers and in a few case, some orders have changed from the past, but that was only to have been expected with an updated, more technologically robust, more secure process using CAPI; this was the same way when the Peoplemeter system was introduced in TV ratings, and eventually people calibrate to the new datum.

Anita Nayyar, ‎CEO, India and South Asia, Havas Media

I'm not sure if it's back on track. There will always be queries, and I don't know if those queries from various publishers are being sorted or not. When there is no other reference point, you have to refer to something. One is referring to the data, but also alongside is marketing intelligence, talk with the publishers and gut feeling at the qualitative level. I think it's a combination of all four. While the research base is provided by the numbers, we talk to publishers to ratify and check on the status. We do look at the data, but to just ratify and give it more authenticity, we do our own checks. It is better to have three to four perspectives on the data that is shared, given the history.

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