Now, will newspaper publishers opt out of IRS?

21 Aug,2014


By A Correspondent


Now that the MRUC and RSCI have decided to lift the abeyance on the IRS 2013 numbers released in late January this year, there is mixed reaction from stakeholders. While media agencies and advertisers are happy that they have data to base their buying decisions, a large number of publishers have express shock and dismay.


Although none of them have done so in public, in the quiet, a majority of the big media groups – save the Hindustan Times and Rajasthan Patrika – are mulling their next steps.


But first let’s read the press release that has been issued by the MRUC:

“The Indian Readership Survey, 2013 was released on January 28, 2014. The release attracted differing views on the accuracy of the data and therefore the Readership Studies Council of India voluntarily requested subscribers to hold the study in abeyance and decided to undertake a revalidation exercise.


Subsequently a sub-committee for revalidation was established with two co-chairs representing publishers and advertising agencies. The sub-committee unanimously concluded that the methodology used to conduct IRS 2013 was in order and decided to commission a Process Audit.


This committee, after viewing several proposals unanimously agreed to award this audit to Mr Praveen Tripathi, (Magic 9 Media) India’s foremost expert on large-scale studies of media consumption behavior.


The finding of the revalidation sub-committee and audit report, it was decided, would be discussed by the Heads of four industry bodies i.e. Chairman-MRUC, Chairman-RSCI, President-INS and Chairman-ABC, and a decision taken by them.


The said Heads of the four bodies received and deliberated upon the report submitted by Mr. Praveen Tripathi and discussed the same with the chairman of RSCI – Technical Committee as well as the two co-chairmen of the revalidation committee.


The Audit was conducted in two stages. Stage one involving direct back checking of respondent homes after which a much broader and deeper Forensic Statistical Analysis exercise was carried out to indentify and isolate both fieldwork compliance deficiencies and incidence of the occurrence of Unusual Publication Incidence (UPI) in respondent interview records. By sieving the aggregate data set for these issues, the audit was able to judge unequivocally whether the statistical deviations systematically changed any of the crucial readership output. The outcome was conclusive and unequivocal. The study results had not been impacted.


After intense deliberations and careful examination of the audit report, Chairman-MRUC, Chairman-RSCI, President-INS and Chairman-ABC, have arrived at a unanimous and unambiguous decision to lift the voluntary abeyance placed on The Indian Readership Survey, 2013.


The voluntary abeyance placed on The Indian Readership Survey 2013 is lifted with effect from 20th August, 2014.


As has been reported, a large section of newspaper and magazine publishers had grouped together to take on the MRUC in February 2014. Among the actions proposed then were law suits and pulling out of subscriptions to the MRUC.


According to an industry person in the know, there was a wide scale agreement that there is need for measurement data. Newspaper publishers which were earlier fighting the onslaught of television have in recent times been facing the heat from activation and OOH and the digital media. “With competition staring in our face, there was need to work things out. What’s worrying is that the crossfire we may see. It shouldn’t become a Times of India v/s Hindustan Times and a Dainik Bhaskar v/s Rajasthan Patrika duel.”


A media agency captain who MxMIndia spoke to said: “Although IRS 2013 was kept in abeyance, we knew what those figures were and factored them in our decision-making. However, we must also say that we were not too convinced about the findings.”


The newspaper industry marketer wasn’t too happy with the views of media agency professionals. “It’s fine for them to sit on their high horses now, but how will they react if they are subjected to a similar study. We should not forget we are part of the same ecosystem. This whole display of fiendish delight is unpalatable. We don’t want cowboys in the system!”


Given that various the heads of various associations – Chairman-MRUC, Chairman-RSCI, President-INS and Chairman-ABC – took “a unanimous and unambiguous decision to lift the voluntary abeyance” as the MRUC press release states, there is little chance of any of the industry bodies crying foul. But it’s the news publishers are key components of the ecosystem and if they decide to dismiss the system or pull out of the IRS/MRUC or decide to have a competiting measurement body, we could see trouble.


But, of course, one is expecting some fireworks.


Watch this space.


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