Submitted by admin on Sat, 06/17/2017 - 17:27

Industry stakeholders count on accurate and credible readership data, based on increased sample size and stringent checks, to reflect ground reality in new Indian Readership Survey (IRS) slated for release in 2017 end



While the industry is busy gearing up for GST compliance, one part of the Media & Entertainment sector has been quietly and consistently working to deliver robust and all-inclusive readership data, to get back its position of a credible metric of measurement in the Print industry. Yes, the Indian Readership Survey (IRS), which encountered a major controversy and rejection by Print players in 2014 (and was later awarded a court stay order) has been reviving itself and according to the Media Research User’s Council (MRUC), close to 50% of the annual sample survey of 3,30,000 respondent is complete, and the field work is on track.

The MRUC and the Readership Studies Council of India (RSCI) have been scrutinizing the IRS field work to ensure a robust study. “Data validation for Q2 will begin by June 2017 and as per agreed norms, will be jointly validated by the RSCI Technical Committee, MRUC Secretariat, and Nielsen India,” says an MRUC update to Print industry stakeholders. In addition to visits by volunteers of leading media agencies and Nielsen field staff, the audit of the field work is done by EY and a mandatory audit of randomly selected audio files is being done by another third party auditor.

“With a sample size more than 40% bigger than the 2013 survey, this survey will provide the much-awaited direction needed in the Print space. Increased sample size as well as more checks and corrective measures should put to rest all controversies that have affected the release of readership data in the last few years. I am looking forward to robust and accurate data which will accurately reflect and capture people’s reading habits, especially of the younger generation,” says Uday Mohan, Managing Partner - North and East India, Havas Media India.


In the absence of readership figures, media planners and publishers had to rely on what was available (IRS 2014) and improvise a bit on earlier data with their own judgement based on the on-ground results. Media agencies have been basing their Print media plans around their own understanding of individual markets, feedback from clients and their respective on-ground sales forces. “We also analyse the response that each of the ads across mediums generates, to arrive at an effectiveness level,” says Mohan of Havas Media.

“In the absence of metrics, the entire ecosystem, all stakeholders are at a loss - advertisers and agencies are not able to judge the deliveries of Print plans and Print players are not able to highlight their strengths with the use of latest data,” says Kaacon Sethi, Chief Corporate Marketing Officer, DB Corp. “Now, as the metrics providers are working towards quicker turnaround of results and faster speed of information; therefore, IRS, which is a large scale study, will provide reliable, large scale data with high usability,” Sethi adds.

‘There has been great team work across all industry bodies’

CVL Srinivas, Chairman, Readership Studies Council of India (RSCI) and CEO, South Asia at GroupM, analyses the IRS from the media agency’s point of view and talks of scope of the new IRS

Q] How was it for media agencies to plan for Print in the absence of IRS data?

It is definitely a challenge to plan with old data or in some cases no data at all. Clients demand accountability and it becomes difficult to operate when there is no industryaccepted data available for long periods of time. Ad growth rates in Print have come down in the past couple of years. There could be a host of factors causing this, but not having measurement data is definitely one of them, especially when media like TV and Digital have upped their measurement game.

Q] While the industry saw a sharp increase in circulation in the recent past, there was no readership data that could provide an accurate understanding of the impact on revenue. Please comment.

Yes, circulation numbers did increase, but we did not have readership data to corroborate this. We have been discussing with both ABC and MRUC the need to provide all the data in one place. Hopefully, we will one day be able to provide circulation and readership data on a common dashbord.

“It is important for the Print industry to rise above competitive compulsions and act in the interests of their fraternity when it comes to establishing industry metrics. We have got a lot of cooperation this time, and are hopeful that we can continue to hold the industry together.”


CEO, South Asia, GroupM

Q] What are the must-haves for Print measurement in a country like India?

First and foremost, the Print industry must ensure that studies like IRS are allowed to run without any breaks, as this will go a long way in keeping Print relevant. Individual publications need to accept the study and not resort to shooting the messenger if the numbers go against them.

It is important for the Print industry to rise above competitive compulsions and act in the interests of their fraternity when it comes to establishing industry metrics. We have got a lot of co-operation this time, and are hopeful that we can continue to hold the industry together.

As regards the must-haves in the study, broadly there was a need to use a lot more technology, build in robust checks and balances, thoroughly validate the data and most importantly since this is a study about Print readership, we needed to keep that the central focus.

Q] Please tell us how MRUC plans to incorporate these must-haves in the IRS.

MRUC has been working closely with all the stake-holders, getting their inputs and keeping them updated on developments. The MRUC Technical Committee has been constantly reviewing the progress with the research agency on all of the points stated here. Publications too have been very involved in giving inputs and suggesting ways of improving the study. All in all, it’s been a very inclusive process.

Q] IRS has been the currency for many years, and to not have data for three years is a setback of sorts. How challenging is it to make sure all goes well this time around?

It has been challenging, but there was great team work across all industry bodies - MRUC, ABC, RSCI and the publications - to get the show on the road. There have been multiple stake-holder discussions and the teams have worked very hard to anticipate and address issues that could arise.


According to Rishi Darda, Editorial & Jt. Managing Director of the Lokmat Group, lack of readership data meant substantial growth numbers over the years were not captured at all. “For any industry, survival without measurement data is tough. IRS is, of course, the most important measurement data that’s required by advertisers and agencies, so for us the big loss was while we were growing in Pune from 2014, those numbers never got captured. For Lokmat specifically, that was a major loss. Otherwise, we would have been announced No. 1 in Pune even two years earlier. Now, hopefully in the new IRS, those numbers should come out,” Darda says.


Giving the marketer’s perspective, Shantiswarup Panda, Chief Marketing Officer - Lifestyle Business, Raymond Limited, says, “We have IRS data from 2012 as a starting point, which is augmented with circulation data from ABC and INS (Indian Newspaper Society). Information from the Pitch Madison Advertising Report is also helpful. All these together give reach/readership, growth, time spent, etc. On the basis of the campaign’s objective and target consumers, the publication edition, size and placement of creative, cost per reach, incremental reach is arrived at and monies are spent.”

My expectation is an unbiased third party measurement of readership across markets. Not only readership numbers, but the demographic/NCCS-based profile at a household/individual level would help marketers plan much sharper campaigns with minimum spill-over. This would improve the efficiency of the plan and credibility of publications. It would be a win-win for all.


Chief Marketing Officer -Lifestyle Business, Raymond Limited





‘We plan to make IRS data available to stake-holders in Q4 2017’

NP Sathyamurthy, Chairman of the Technical Committee & Board Member, MRUC and also Executive Director, DDB Mudra Group & President, OMD Mudramax, gives us an overview of the new IRS

Q] The new and improved IRS was expected to be out in the first quarter of 2017. When is it likely to be released?

It was originally meant to hit the market some time in Q2 2017.We have been constantly innovating with new technology-led solutions to improve the speed and veracity of data capture, quarter on quarter. Ongoing back checks/process checks by the Nielsen team, third party audit agency, advertising agency members and the IRS TechCom members have strengthened our belief that we will have a very robust IRS output sometime soon. Close to 50% of the annual sample size of 3,30,000 respondents is completed for the survey, as of date, and field work is going on. We plan to make data available to stake-holders during Q4 2017, post validation.

Q] Will there be quarterly updates followed by this release?

Yes. That is the need expressed by many stakeholders.

Q] What are the changes that we will see in the new IRS? How have you made the study more robust than the earlier ones?

Wait for the ‘new improved IRS’! Apart from new-look software that will deliver robust data outputs, we are working on the feasibility of delivering ABC circulation numbers (where available) on the software, to ensure considered decision-making by users seeing readership numbers in conjunction with circulation numbers. We are also checking the software feasibility to minimize opportunities for users to misrepresent data outputs.

Variant readership estimations, more detailed capture of TV, Digital media data, enhanced data capture for Radio listenership, new lifestyle measures, infrastructure & amenities in households are some of the new data points that one can look forward to, from the new improved IRS.

Q] How are you going ahead with the Digital measurement system of IRS? How will it be better than the already established measurements of comScore and Google Analytics?

Digital data capture (like other media) in IRS is based on ‘claimed behaviour’ of respondents. Therefore, we should not compare the output with other databases of Digital measurement. The output from IRS will capture all-India numbers representing all town classes, Urban as well as Rural, all socioeconomic classes and all age groups. Hence, it will be more comprehensive. The new IRS is also capturing Digital readership to a limited extent.

Q] How will the new IRS address needs of marketers like understanding reach and impact separately; having separate report for supplements of publications, etc?

Capturing the ‘impact’ is outside the scope and purview of studies like IRS.

Q] What measures have been taken to make the report transparent and comply with the best security protocols?

Lots of security checks and measures, completely aided by technology, is in place. Coupled with third party process-checks, it should ensure an unbiased data output. I believe. I pray!


A lot has changed in the Print medium, with the advent of Digital. Marketers have been adopting the Digital medium and finding salience with the young audience (aged 15-30). “At a broad level, we have traditionally used Print (dailies) as a lead generation medium and to educate the customers in detail and TV for brand-building. Now, we see it differently, where we find Digital as a more efficient medium from the cost per lead (CPL) perspective vis-à-vis Print. We still use Print, but more in the so-called ‘digital dark’ markets and mostly in vernacular medium,” says Shashank Sinha, Associate Vice President- Marketing, Eureka Forbes Limited.

Even Print circulation has grown significantly in the last two years due to increase in literacy levels and better infrastructure across the country. Given this scenario, lack of a measurement metric that could give an understanding of demographics of the publications and readers’ preferences has been felt by the industry.

While the industry saw a sharp increase in Print circulation, there was no readership data that could provide an accurate understanding of the impact on revenue for advertisers. “The spike in circulation has not been uniform across the country. In case of Southern states, taking Kerala, there has only been a minor growth. For an established brand like Mathrubhumi daily, credibility and brand loyalty are factors that reflect in our ABC-authenticated figures,” says M V Shreyams Kumar, Joint Managing Director of the Mathrubhumi Group.

Lack of readership data is a concern, but increase in circulation will not always result in increased readership at the same rate, especially in saturated markets like Kerala, feels Varghese Chandy, Vice President, Marketing, Advertising Sales, Malayala Manorama. “Most of the increased circulation is by converting secondary readers to primary readers. But readership numbers will definitely help advertisers since they will get more attention for their ads, better time spent and better response from the ad,” says Chandy.


Established publications have been emphasising the reliability of ABC figures since they are based on audit and not surveys. “ABC audited and certified circulation numbers are the only contemporary metrics available for planning of late, since pre-disputed IRS of 2012 vintage is no longer relevant. While circulation doesn’t have the granularity of demographic slices important to planners, at least it provides measured numbers as against laissez-faire claims of some publications. In our assessment, till such time as consensus emerges on the outcome of new IRS reports, ABC certified circulation is the best bet for media planners and buyers to leverage as the rightly validated tool,” says Pradeep Dwivedi, Chief Executive Officer, Sakal Media Group.

According to Probal Ghoshal, Whole time Director, Amar Ujala Publications Ltd, clients, media companies and agencies have a deep and fairly accurate understanding of each media brand’s reach, penetration, homogeneity and reader profiles. “IRS won’t invent anything. It will validate and brand a certain knowledge which exists in the system. We all know who read us and why. That’s the raison d’etre of the brand. What’s critical is that we put a stamp of approval by RSIC and MRUC,” Ghoshal observes.

However, for those publications which are new and have not been able to come under the purview of ABC audits, it’s a disadvantage. “Publications that are in that ‘already established’ space may not have felt any difficulty in space-selling in the absence of IRS, but for a publication like ours, that is five years old and has seen substantial growth, recognized as being No. 1 was not possible as IRS numbers were not released for a long time,” says Anand Sankeshwar, Managing Director, VRL Media. “When strategy, planning and brand building is simulated on the computer, crunching numbers and not on-ground reality in these cases, brands like ours suffer the most. This also mounts considerable pressure on showcasing the product to advertisers, and the product is missing out on its strength that is evidently there for advertisers to experience,” adds Sankeshwar.

One of the major changes MRUC has brought into the upcoming IRS is that readership data will be placed alongside circulation figures of ABC, which will clear discrepancies that arise in each of the surveys. Publishers feel bringing the two together will provide a great benefit of context, validation and relevant interpretations. “For those publications that show circulation volumes through so-called ‘reader schemes’ without actually reaching the reader, this will bring out the ground reality,” says Dwivedi. Today, a lot of publications are read online, and they have advertisements on e-papers and websites. In order to measure this, ABC got Nielsen and Facebook in for the technology aspect and the starting point would be to certify both e-paper data alongside Print runs. “The data will not include the engagement or time spent as we are not measuring it. But yes we will give out profile and thus the Nielsen and the Facebook tie-up is crucial,” Shashi Sinha, CEO, IPG Mediabrands India, had told IMPACT during an earlier interview on ABC’s role in the new IRS.

“Because of better technology applications in digital measurement now, we are hopeful that it would certainly be helpful. But then we have to wait for the final outcome,” says KRP Reddy, Director Advertisement & Marketing at Sakshi TV & Newspaper.

While it is not possible for any physical survey to accurately capture the fast-paced changes in their entirety, the expectations from IRS’ digital measurement survey would be to see how they capture the changes in the media consumption habit over the years and across different age groups and segments. “It would be interesting to see how the younger generation is consuming media, specially on Print and whether the shift is happenning to the Digital formats of Print titles,” says Mohan of Havas Media.


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