Are our Print Pashas mature enough to accept IRS 2017?

11 Jan,2018


By Pradyuman Maheshwari


The Indian print industry is much-pampered. While television should rule in a country with a low literacy rate, it’s the print players who appear to get all the sops. There’s a 5 per cent GST on advertising in print. It’s 18 per cent in other media.

There is no restriction on advertising volume in print. And there is no government rulings or guidelines for bodies in the business of audience/reader measurement of newspapers and magazines.

Net-net, it’s a near-free-for-all.

Now what happens when you leave kids without any control. They can grow to be very independent and confident adults, or can go offtrack. Our print players may not have gone astray, but it wouldn’t be incorrect to say that many of them have acted with loads of immaturity when it comes to readership measurement.

We aren’t recommending government intervention in monitoring as the broadcasters led by news channels invited upon themselves, but there’s reason for worry given that the Advertising Agencies Association of India and the Indian Society of Advertisers, the two apex bodies of agencies and clients, haven’t flexed their muscles and told newspapers and magazines that if they reject measurement studies, they will not get any ads.

IRS 2017 is due to be released in the third week of January 2017. While there is no specific date given, this would mean any day starting Monday, Jan 15 to Friday, January 19.

According to a communique, the “IRS Techcom, RSCI, MRUC along with the Nielsen team have left no stone unturned in their endeavour to provide the industry with a reliable and robust study. The team focussed on enhanced levels of scrutiny adopted via frequent field visits, backchecks, use of GPS tracking devices, audio recordings, and quarterly validations. There was also an encouraging response from media agency personnel who took part in field backchecks and accompaniments. Data validation for all the four fieldwork quarters for IRS 2017 was successfully completed last month.”


Commenting on the release of the report, Ashish Bhasin, Chairman, MRUC and Chairman and CEO – South Asia, Dentsu Aegis Networks, said: “Absence of IRS data in the past three years or so has impacted our industry in many ways. It was difficult for the agencies to plan without the availability of a comprehensive and reliable study, which provides valuable information on product ownership, demographics, and media consumption habits, across markets. Advertisers and Publishers, in particular, relied heavily on intuition and market perception, leading to loss of opportunity in maximising profitability. We are delighted that the IRS is back and we expect that this will set a new standard for Print Research globally.”


Pratap Pawar, Vice Chairman, MRUC and Chairman, Sakal Media Group, added, “The print industry has been eagerly awaiting the release of IRS. I would like to thank the stakeholders for having shown tremendous patience and also for providing their unstinted support to the industry study, which was really great to see. Going forward MRUC and the IRS would continue to deliver the best and tread on higher paths of glory.”


And this is what Shashi Sinha, RSCI Managing Committee Chairman, and CEO, IPG Media Brands, stated: “There is no other readership study in the world other than the IRS that caters to a complex and diverse market like India with a sample as large as 3 lakhs plus households, and with a methodology designed to deliver gold standard research. I believe the RSCI Techcom and the MRUC has put in a lot of effort to perfect the upcoming Report, making it future-ready and synonymous with the market truths.”


Added NP Sathyamurthy, Chairman – RSCI Technical Committee and Executive Director, DDB Mudra Group: “After months and months of dedication, we have come out with a product that we believe is truly world-class. The IRS has constantly innovated with new technology led solutions to improve veracity of data capture quarter-on-quarter, and the sheer focus on data scrutiny which we deployed makes us believe that the new improved IRS would reap rich dividends for the industry stakeholders.”


It’s important to read the above quotes at what they are stating and what’s possibly written between the lines:


So let’s interpret these quotes for you:


Ashish Bhasin: Lack of measurement data has nailed the industry and resulted in loss of opportunity in maximising profitability of newspapers doing well.

Pratap Pawar: Thanks for the patience folks, we are back.

Shashi Sinha: Conducting an IRS is a complex task but we’ve achieved it

NP Sathyamurthy: It’s new, improved


Now here’s what the four gentlemen possibly wanted to say, but they couldn’t have in an official communique:


Bhasin: If you don’t accept IRS 2017 as currency, print players are going to get screwed

Pawar: Grow up, guys. Accept the data.

Sinha: We’ve done as well as we can. It’s robust. Now junk it at your own peril

Sathyamurthy: We’ve taken care to not repeat the mistakes of the past, so please accept the data

Having tracked readership and audience measurement systems actively for a while, it’s clear that it’s a lose-lose if the print majors rejected IRS 2017.


According to the grapevine, the going may not be as bad as it was the last time. Care has been taken to plug all possible holes, and ensure that there are no booboos. Also, the data has been validated and is kind-of under control.


But it’s possible that English newspapers will take a hit given the emergence of digital as a big force. And this could lead to some angst. It’s possible that there will be some reversal of fortunes among some regional players too given that a lot has happened over the last five years.


Does this mean that there could be litigation and MRUC/RSCI will be taken to court? It would be foolhardy to think there wouldn’t be. And MRUC/RSCI would be well-advised to have their lawyer retainership renewed and ready with her/his arguments.




It’s important to note here the tremendous work done on the establishment of BARC for television measurement in the last three years. That BARC has been a super success despite the stakes being much higher in television is thanks to a variety of factors.


1. Television is largely professionals-driven. While owners are active, professionals understand the dynamics of the business and do know that what is down can also go up.

2. The importance of the owners and CEOs to deal with data with maturity. One of the primary reasons for BARC taking off was the presence of Punit Goenka as Chairman. Despite flagship channel being humbled in the first few weeks, Goenka is said to have given the green signal to the launch of BARC. Does MRUC/RSCI have someone who is even close to Punit Goenka in terms of maturity to deal with indifferent data?

3. A robust technical committee: The BARC techcom is headed by IPG Mediabrands CEO Shashi Sinha, who heads RSCI, the real ‘custodian’ of the IRS. It’s critical for any techcom to be wordly wise as well as firm and able to take along the diverse ecosystem. Sinha managed that fantastically, and the print sector is lucky to have him active on IRS.

4. A superstrong secretariat. No industry-owned body can be successful if you do not have a secretariat that’s strong and can ward off the nasty (if not evil) forces. In CEO Partho Dasgupta, BARC had that. The next few months will need MRUC CEO Radhesh Uchil to be the same with all the holy cows of the business. And if necessary bare his fangs…


At MxMIndia, we will monitor the launch of IRS 2017 and also give you the real story post that. But in the interests of the industry and the print sector, we hope we don’t have to do burn the midnight oil post the launch.

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