Don’t reject new IRS, correct it: Amit Ray

03 Feb,2014

 

By A Correspondent

 

Sometime in the afternoon today (Feb 3), the Indian Newspaper Society is meeting the top brass of the Media Research Users Council for a discussion on the new Indian Readers Suvey findings . On Friday, 18-odd publishers issued a joint statement. The basic message: “We, the leading newspapers of the country, condemn the newly published Indian Readership Survey (IRS 2013) in the strongest possible terms.  The survey is riddled with shocking anomalies, which defy logic and common sense. They also grossly contradict audited circulation figures (ABC), of long standing. We also strongly ask RSCI and MRUC, the conductors of the Indian Readership Survey, to withdraw the results of IRS Q4 2013 immediately and  as well as put a stop to all future editions of this survey, as their continued publication will cause irreparable injury to the reputation of established publications like ours.”

 

According to the information available to MxMIndia, a senior INS officebearer wrote to the MRUC saying that members of the apex body of newspaper publishers will pull their subscriptions if the new IRS findings weren’t disbanded.”

 

The print media ecosystem is divided on what should be done with the new IRS. While many publishers have damned the findings and pushing for it to be dumped in the scrapyard, there are a fair number of media agency professionals and advertisers who believe that the media research findings must be honoured.

 

 

MxMIndia Comment: Post IRS, worries for broadcasters * When publishers hailed IRS * Likely outcome of INS-MRUC meeting

By A Correspondent

 

Guess who should be most worried after the IRS 2013 survey findings that were out last week? The entire broadcast ecosystem of course, especially the folks at BARC. While the monsieurs at tech vendor Mediametrie and the yet-unappointed panel manager may mouth a few ouis, nons or whatever, the knives and suparis will surely be out if there’s any dramatic changes from the present.

 

Let’s look at a few hypothetical scenarios.

Scenario 1: Sony is Hindi GEC #1, ratings of the #1 GECs drops 100 GRPs

Scenario 2: India News turns #1. The current leaders fall by the wayside

Scenario 3: In Tamil, Pudhu Yugam becomes GEC #1

 

These are of course just scenarios, but if the results of the IRS 2013 out last week are an indicator, they aren’t impossible to happen. It’s going to be a change of methodology, a change of vendor (possibly not fully if TAM is selected as panel manager), a change of philosophy and an all-new Technical Committee ensuring the processes are followed and the system is robust. And above all: BARC with a chairman from the industry, a CEO and his secretariat and a techcom that has reps of a broadcaster, media agency and advertiser.

 

The problem, as many industrypersons told us, is not the process, but in the final numbers. These are after all IRS survey. As in the case of BARC, even the IRS saw representatives of all stakeholders actively participating in the processes.

 

In fact on the day the IRS was launched in Mumbai in March 2013, Peter Suresh, the much respect research head (Head-Strategy) at the Dainik Bhaskar told MxMIndia:  “The entire process is automated, and that is incredible. Attempt to report individually on a far larger number of geographical units is also very heartening. District cut too has increased - hence the data can be analyzed at a far more granular level. Bulk of action of late has been in rest of India, beyond six metros and hence granular cut is extremely important. Data slicing at a deeper level, and multiple ways of presenting it, make far more sense. Readership numbers are the cornerstones of most media marketing and sales strategies - and the finer they can be cut, the more robust they are. And, of course, these will help in delivering better stories to the marketers.”

 

Dainik Bhaskar is one of the signatories of the statement issued on Friday against the IRS. Interestingly, a day after the IRS was released - on January 29, to be precise -several newspapers front-paged their successful showing in the readership study. These include some of the signatories to the statement.

 

The meeting between the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) and the Media Research Users Council (MRUC) at 2/2.30pm today is most likely going to end in a stalemate. It may be remembered the RSCI was formed by the MRUC and INS-sponsored National Readership Studies Council to govern  the new IRS. So the buck is clearly in the RSCI court. For the INS to damn the IRS is tough because its members had endorsed the process.

 

The MRUC is being represented by Chairman Ravi Rao, TechCom chaiman Paritosh Joshi and Director General Shaswati Saradar. At the time of writing, one is not aware of who will represent the INS. But Hormasji Cama, a former head of the INS and MRUC and now chairperson of the RSCI, is travelling, the decision will need to be finally taken by him.

 

According to the grapevine, the MRUC/RSCI has already written to Nielsen, asking the research agency to clear a few doubts. It’s possible that the new IRS findings will be put under suspension for a few weeks until the clarifications come in and Mr Cama is back.

 

MxMIndia spoke with veteran media professional and former chairman of the MRUC Technical Committee Amit Ray for his views and to suggest the way forward of the mess.

 

1. Is there really any anomaly as it is being made out to be? And if yes, why has it happened?

a. There appears to be a lack of experience in the current dispensation vis-à-vis readership research. Instead of letting go of the previous experienced professionals, MRUC and RSCI should have engaged them more significantly given that the task was assigned to the same research agency that had failed earlier. If you remember, AC Nielsen was the agency which did the NRS in the past.

 

b. The questions that are now rightly being asked are: Was Nielsen the right agency? Does it have the requisite experience for newspaper readership study in India? Did we forget that NRS had failed thanks to the same agency?

 

c. I strongly believe that publishers ought to have got their own experts to validate Nielsen’s methods and later the results. How can the publishers let a body like new MRUC decide about their future knowing fully well that the real pillar of the earlier IRS was the research agency and the techcom together?

 

d. One of the reasons why the print media rejected the NRS and opted for MRUC’s IRS was the concept of ‘continuous research’. So why was this junked overnight? It is very likely that the current people will defend this by asking for more time. This time the publisher would do well to have their own team of experts with experience and not just blindly trust the experience (or the lack of it) of the current technical committee and the research agency.

 

e. Everyone inside MRUC would’ve known about what has happened historically. Even MRUC had a problem in the past when circumstances forced MRUC to choose a new agency NFO. This was the around 2000/2001. If my memory serves me right the new Agency took almost 3 years to complete the research. May be the current office bearers were not aware of this

 

2. What are the next steps? Scrap IRS?

a. Rejecting the new IRS will be a regressive decision. Instead of rejecting it, we should look at correcting it. If we reject it, we will be starved of another 15-18 months of data which will be counter-productive to publishers.

 

b. Call the people from the earlier MRUC technical committee especially those who took it to another level because of which the INS agreed to team up with the MRUC. May be a good idea to urge the veteran Roda Mehta who set up the IRS to intervene and suggest changes. I will be happy to help too and possibly pull in a few others.

 

c. Ask AC Nielsen to allow a detailed audit of their actual work. Invite some of the senior folks at Hansa Research Group to come in as professionals – and not representing Hansa – to offer their advice. They are clearly best suited to find the soft spots where mistakes are committed so that we don’t repeat them

 

3. Both RSCI and MRUC are part-sponsored by print publishers. The officebearers of both bodies have publisher representatives. So is it right for the INS to now play Big Brother to decisions taken by its own members?

For the sake of the industry and the entire print media sector, it’s important that IRS 2013 is salvaged. As I stated earlier, publishers will suffer the most if it’s scrapped. Media studies like that of KPMG, PwC etc make sectoral assumptions and projections based on these. I believe the entire sector shouldn’t suffer because of the mistakes of some.

 

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