Sanjeev Kotnala: The ABC of the TOI-HT Battle

17 Sep,2014

By Sanjeev Kotnala


I am enjoying the TOI-HT fight for Delhi-NCR supermacy. Are you?


You may love TOI for the action and pity HT for pathetic explanation or be completely neutral with ‘I don’t care -WTF’ attitude. The lines are drawn depending on ‘who you hate’ and ‘who you love to hate’. Trust me, you will enjoy this, when you pick your side to fight for.


For me this is not about TOI-HT or ABC-MRUC or IRS. It is about anomalies in syndicated third party studies and audits. The truth is that the industry would really want to trust these surveys and report but they can’t. Net-net, the industry suffers.


On the other side, it is adrenaline-seeping excitement injected in the inert print planning environment. May be the print industry needs such episodes at regular intervals. Like Dainik Bhaskar-Rajasthan Patrika, Dainik Jagran-Dainik Bhaskar- Punjab Kesari, Hindu-TOI, Divya Bhaskar-Gujarat Samachar, Divya Marathi- Lokmat to name a few.


It’s about the state of affairs, where just like the Oscar Pistorius case, the IRS is served a unanimous verdict for its process and data robustness validity.


In such a situation , all you have is your point of view. Which is the root cause of what is currently happening.


TOI is known and respected for its synchronised all guns blazing attack.  It’s no different this time (case facts at the end). TOI has taken a leaf out of a Standard Operating Procedure  at Dainik Bhaskar and adapted the famed process of ‘let stakeholders see reality at ground zero’. TOI was smarting under the tainted IRS 2013 and ABC took its pain to next level. Result: TOI launched  ‘THE TOI CHALLENGE’. Trust me this frontal confidence and trick always works in B2B scenario.


You would have seen the simple but brutal video with a super- ‘For Internal discussion / usage only not to be forwarded to anyone else other than the intended recipient’ video ( 24280 views !). No one believes that super but it saves some skin. .


Look at it differently. ABC stipulates that while reporting combined circulation data the constituent’s title/ edition detail is a must. For TOI to be correct, at least one of them –  HT /ABC / MRUC must be wrong. In that case, some communication is definitely misleading. ABC and ASCI please step-in.


Technically speaking, if you have to depend on only one parameter for print media planning, it should be Readership and not Circulation. Circulation is somewhat outdated, over-manipulated, completely misunderstood and under-leveraged. Irrespective of the newspaper title, the circulation-readership ratio would move in a narrow band for a given market–language combination. Market forces like  circulation will course-correct it in case of a deviant picture. Circulation can play the role of initial benchmarking for print planning.


In an era of media fragmentation, readership  through content consistency and quality reporting defines Circulation and not the other way round. In long term, neither pushing copies to gain readers nor buying/ hoarding/ burning works.


But then above is a picture of idealistic world. The current IRS and ABC along with publications like  TOI, HT, Dainik Bhaskar, Dainik Jagran, Lokmat tell me just one thing:  ‘Believe at your own risk’. I am still learning.


So, something must change and it must happen at the root of the process. The ABC must treat titles as independent allowing no combo-reporting / listing / communicating. The IRS in addition to improving its processes/ systems/ data robustness/ industry involvement / cross check/ high data security must differentiate within groups and subgroups of title if ownership is differentiated or the media space is bought and sold separately.


But there is no messiah in sight to attempt to redefine an idealistic research envirounment.  So until that time, take a side you’d like to back and enjoy the next round!



The TOI-HT Battle File:
FACT   :

  • ABC JD 2013 – DELHI NCR- HT 10.6 TOI 10.4 lakh copies



  • HT 2 Minute is on 12-pager (average) priced much lower than HT MAIN and inserted with HINDI HINDUSTAN Monday to Friday.
  • 26% of 10.4 lakh (2.75 lakh) copies of HT’s circulation refer to ‘HT-2 Minutes’
  • HT 2 MINUTE carries only 30% of HT MAIN ads.
  • Maybe the advertiser is unaware that the ad is not exposed to this 26% HT 2 MINUTE reader
  • Even if the ad is carried in HT2MINUTE, it reaches an  unplanned first preference Hindi readers
  • ABC JD 2013. TOI’s fully loaded edition (regular copies: Listed in ABC as ‘single’ / ‘combo’) is 38% ahead of HT



  • Seeing is Beleiving. Come and see for yourself.  We outsell HT in every Sales Point/ Depots. with this new campaign.



Sanjeev Kotnala is Head Catalyst at P1P2SOLUTIONS and can be reached at The views expressed here are his own.



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