English hit, regional publications buoyant as launch of new readership data is met with euphoria and some drama
BY SRABANA LAHIRI & DIPALI BANKA
(WITH INPUTS FROM NEETA NAIR & SAMARPITA BANERJEE)
Adrenaline ran high at the Nehru Centre in Worli, Mumbai, the venue of the muchawaited launch of the Indian Readership Survey (IRS) 2017 on January 18. Publishers, media owners, media agency heads and journalists waited eagerly to see the numbers from the survey after a gap of four data dark years, post rejection of the last edition of IRS by industry stakeholders in 2014. The presentation drew cheers from the crowd, with newspapers showing 40% growth and adding more than 11 crore new readers, and magazines showing 95% growth and adding 3.8 crore readers. But soon undercurrents were palpable in the room, with murmurs about the new measurement metric, Total Readership (TR), that captures readership data over a period of one month. The argument was that while the new IRS offers 1 month, 7-day, 3-day and ‘yesterday’ slicing of data (the latter is the same as the earlier Average Issue Readership or AIR data), TR had been taken as the main currency to make Print look good in a scenario where AIR had shown just 0.6% growth. While the new system gives more options to planners and admittedly reflects the current trend of short loyalty spans with the advent of digital, AIR is generally the basis of all media planning as planners and advertisers give it preference. The numbers do show that newspaper readership is not as hardcore as before, and has become a lot more casual and flirtatious - last 3 days numbers show a growth of 16% and last 7 days 26%, respectively, which may justify the advent of TR. Even during the last IRS survey, it seems, some publishers were keen on TR, but the committee at that time did not agree to adopt it.
Cut to January 19, 24 hours after the IRS 2017 launch, when all software subscribers would have got their first load of the survey database and their first peep into the actual market-wise numbers. Many went into a huddle in their boardrooms and became incommunicado. Some publishers who had happily shared comments with us on TR numbers suddenly withdrew their comments. Others who were on the verge of talking to us had a change of mind, as top level meetings went on in the boardrooms of Print houses, analysing and making sense of the detailed IRS 2017 data. Although the AR figures have not changed much compared to last year, there definitely was some upheaval in numbers, with a number of publications saying they were taking their time to interpret the data. The litmus test for the survey has only just begun. The next few weeks will give us a sense of how the Print industry is dealing with IRS 2017.
Meanwhile, the new IRS appears to have ticked all the right boxes: robust sample size, transparency, industry collaboration, auditing methodology and a richer qualitative narrative of the readership. It should help bust a lot of myths about the qualitative aspects of readership groups, especially beyond the metros and in the non-English space, and help de-commoditize inventory. Robust security features have been built into IRS 2017. For example, once you put in a response in the questionnaire, you cannot go back and change it. A lot of other improvements have come in too.
Another trend that emerges from the flat AR growth is that the growth of newspaper readership has been skewed towards language publications in a few regions. English readership, especially in metros, seems to have shrunk in a big way with people reading newspapers online. The readership of Hindi dailies has grown by 45%, English dailies readership has grown by 10% and among other languages, the readership of Telugu dailies has grown by a whopping 63%. This also may be the reason why the committee felt the need to stay away from the controversy of numbers of AR and play safe by quoting only the TR numbers.
No big changes are expected in the pecking order of top two or three dailies at most State levels, but there may be major ups and downs in numbers in specific cities because of a spurt of growth in a certain area, that may fuel readership growth too.
EVERYTHING OFFICIAL ABOUT VARIANTS
Earlier, variants became a big issue that pitted big publishers against one another, sometimes with both claiming supremacy in the same market. The subtext was whether they put out numbers with or without considering the variants or increased the print run just to bump up circulation figures. IRS 2017 clearly maps variants as a separate entity. So are the disputes going to be over? Says Ashish Bhasin, Chairman, MRUC & Chairman and CEO-South Asia, Dentsu Aegis Network, “Research can’t put an end to anything. What research is going to do is that in top 40 relevant towns, it is going to show you exactly what your main publication readership is and what your variant readership is. How people use it, is not IRS’ lookout. But it is for the first time that you have the variant accounted for. More the data that is available, harder it is for anybody to misuse it.”
CODE OF CONDUCT & COMPLIANCE
The MRUC team has played on the front foot with the code of conduct it has devised, which needs to be accepted by users, before accessing the data. It includes the code of self-regulation, which lists out pointers in terms of comparison with previous rounds and regulates use of IRS 2017 data in publicity and promotions. How publishers take this in their stride will be seen in the coming weeks, when they actually get to analyse the numbers.
But what about publishers who do not subscribe to IRS at all? Earlier there were some who chose not to subscribe; so, is full compliance expected this time around? “Beyond a point, you can only pray. It’s a study which is going to benefit the media fraternity at large, media planners at large, advertisers at large. Some will gain, some will lose, and that’s how the order is, but the good part is Print as a medium has grown substantially. So, I don’t see too many people being unhappy. One or two will certainly be unhappy in the local city, local markets, when they get the software and see that the output is not up to their expectations. But they should realize that the data we are reporting is reality,” says NP Sathyamurthy, head of the Technical Committee of MRUC.
MRUC has the support of publishers such as Rajiv C. Lochan, MD & CEO of The Hindu Group, who urges his peers to use the data responsibly. “We hope that the industry takes this seriously. We do expect the MRUC to adopt a zerotolerance approach to any malpractice or mischief. We are looking forward to analysing the data, for insightful outcomes relevant to publications of The Hindu Group,” Lochan says.
WHAT’S IN IT FOR PLANNERS AND MARKETERS
Uniform reporting of measurement over one month across all media verticals in IRS 2017 could help marketers. “Earlier, reach was a very confusing thing across media because Internet was being looked at for one year, some other medium we were looking at for three months, Radio we were looking at for six months, etc. Now, we have standardized it and said that all media will be measured for one month. That will simplify their lives,” explains Ashish Bhasin. Impact measurement is still elusive, and supplements are not being measured separately, but some headway has been made.
Sam Balsara, Chairman, Madison World says the big opportunity for publishers now is to come up with interesting packages for advertisers that encourage and incentivise them to take additional insertions of the same ad at a lower price where they could bunch their insertions, say, within a month. This way, the publisher would benefit with additional revenue and the advertiser would benefit with more viewership, Balsara says.
“Advertisers have no tool other than IRS to do market level media planning. No other data will tell you that this is the right combination of media to be used in a particular market to meet your marketing objective, which is why all the media now are comparable on the last one month basis - how many people watch TV, how many are on the Internet, how many on mobile, how many on Radio or Cinema, all of them are mapped. So, it is the only way any advertiser can do market level media mix planning,” says Sathyamurthy.
Rishi Darda, Jt MD & Editorial Director of the Lokmat Media Group too is happy that IRS 2017 has created an appleto-apple comparison between different media options available to advertisers by using Total Readership. “There now exists a matrix to compare Total Readership to Total Viewership and Listenership,” he says.
MORE INVESTMENTS IN IRS
It costs a subscriber a few lakh rupees to a couple of crores to install and use the IRS software, equated to intensity of usage. The larger the organization, and larger the number of users, higher is the price. Some publishers get it for Rs 3-4 lakh, while others pay up to crores.
According to Hormusji N Cama, Director, Bombay Samachar, the IRS requires far more funding than is currently available to upgrade itself. “The IRS has always been, and will always remain, a credible measurement tool. But it requires far more funding, which unfortunately is not forthcoming. Larger the sample size, lower the relative error, and therefore publishers must come together to fund the IRS in a big way if they wish to really have a better survey.
There has been in the past, and also in the present IRS, alleged contamination of data due to various external influences, and every round of IRS has faced this problem. One can only hope that in future rounds of the IRS, there is greater restraint shown by some errant publishers, who appear to spend vast amounts of money to compromise data. It would be far better if the same money is channelized towards an increase in the sample size and improved technology for IRS,” Cama says.
‘We have opened up multiple currencies; we have given multiple data points - TR, 7-day, 3-day and of course AIR remains. It is up to the planner and advertiser to use the currency of their choice. The sheer focus on Quality Control makes IRS 2017 a reliable and a real stand-out report. It mirrors the market reality in terms of media reach and the performance of individual media channels.’
RSCI Managing Committee Chairman & CEO, IPG Mediabrands India
IRS 2017: PROS & CONS
By VINEET SODHANI
CEO, Spatial Access Pvt Ltd.
After a four-year gap, the industry finally saw the release of a new Indian Readership Survey. Our clients had been awaiting the study, and so had the industry as a whole. Of the IRS 2017 top-lines, here is what I find noteworthy:
WHAT IS GREAT
• With the latest release, you have one platform that gives media reach of all mediums – TV, Print, Radio, Cinema and Digital. You can still not plan all media, but you at least have relative reach numbers across TG/ markets - something that was missing for a while. Digital reach numbers reported may, however, be disputed. More on that later.
• Highest growth in readership of dailies has come from the youngest age-group – 12-15years, which has grown by 14 percentage points. This should be heartening for publishers as the youngest are endorsing it in large numbers!
• Most readership numbers were reported under Total Readership as opposed to Average Issue Reader (AIR), which was the norm in previous IRS reports. The speakers kept talking about 40% growth in Total Readership. This was mostly done, I think, to assuage the fraternity and make the numbers not comparable to previous years, at least for the current time period. A cheeky move!
• Mobile penetration has reached 91% of the homes in India. There are more homes that have a mobile phone today, compared to ceiling fans and gas stoves.
• Marketers, especially the ones targeting the middle class, should be happy as it is bulging. Population of NCSS B and C saw a growth while that of D and E saw a decline.
WHAT IS NOT SO GREAT
• AIR growth is flat at an All-India level.
• While the total readership has gone up by 8% in SEC A, the growth is 1%. This is not totally unexpected.
• Internet penetration in the last one month at 19% is a number that most digital players will contest. In the middle of 2017, Facebook reported 241 million active users in India, which in itself is 19% and all-India Internet penetration was pegged at 36%.
• Premium products such as four-wheelers continue to show low reporting in large scale studies such as IRS.
• Questionnaire length of 60-70 pages makes the interview very long, increasing chances for fatigued response and duplicitous data collection. Note to readers: Representative population (above 12 years of age) has gone up by 9% in population. So any data point that shows growth below 9% is actually a decline.
‘Cross-media comparison in IRS 2017 helps gauge headroom for each brand’
Delighted to see the IRS set global benchmarks in sample size, design and tight monitoring. Very encouraged to see that the survey reinforces what we’ve always believed in – that magazines are far more relevant now, than in the preceding years, and the age of the discerning media consumer has returned. To have India Today as the most read magazine is very satisfying. To top it, India Today Hindi is a close second to its sibling, India Today English, and Business Today continues to be undisputed No.1. That adds to the motivation of the team at India Today Group. It makes me happy and validates my belief that good editorial works. The cross-media comparison really helps us gauge the real headroom for each of the brands and there is every reason to believe that the Print medium is still a very strong force to reckon with; increasingly more relevant as the consumer seeks clarity in the midst of the information explosion.
Chairman & Editor in Chief, India Today Group
‘Publishers now need to come up with interesting packages for advertisers’
Overall, IRS 2017 is good news. The fact that total readership has gone up is heartening. That means, while people may not be reading a newspaper everyday, the way they used to do in the past, many more people have come into the market and they read newspapers on and off, and that to my mind is good news. The big opportunity for publishers now is to come up with interesting packages for advertisers that encourage and incentivise them to take additional insertions of the same ad at a lower price, where they could bunch their insertions, say, within a month. This way, the publisher would benefit with additional revenue and the advertiser would benefit with 40% viewership. That is the key macro fact that I take out from whatever has been presented at the launch event. The IRS has gone to great lengths to make sure there is no hanky panky, as thousands of actual completed questionnaires were abandoned because there was a doubt whether they were done correctly or not. I am sure that with all the precautions that have been taken, the results should be reasonably accurate.
Chairman, Madison World
Finally, the truth is out and IRS 2017 results will now put to rest all misleading claims by competition by selective usage of data. Our unique content and impartial journalism has helped us reach this position. In addition, our robust back-end research revealed that Pune market and its readers had a sense of void as their issues went unheard. It is here that Lokmat made an effort in connecting with the readers and thus today it has emerged as the rightful voice of the people of Pune.
Jt MD & Editorial Director, Lokmat Media Group
The headlines on the Print industry are pretty clear - there’s been an encouragingly robust growth across all languages. And we’re of course delighted that Dainik Jagran has topped the charts yet again.
Senior VP, Strategy, Brand and Business Development, Jagran Prakashan Ltd
In terms of methodology and quality control, IRS 2017 seems to be a much improved and credible readership survey as compared to 2014. The top findings reveal that newspaper readership has grown by 40%, which is encouraging news for us, being a media conglomerate. We are also pleased that IRS 2017 has reaffirmed our contention that Radio has grown by 30%, and TV by 10%. All these are encouraging results.
M V SHREYAMS KUMAR
Joint Managing Director, Mathrubhumi Printing & Publishing Co Ltd
I had expected the condition to be worse, but according to the data presented by the report, the situation is much better than I expected. Online readership is very low. So there is a lot of scope to grow.
D D PURKAYASTHA
MD & CEO, Ananda Bazar Patrika
This stupendous increase in readership overall for Print is a very positive sign for the industry. The entire industry has come together after four years and now has a currency that is accepted by everybody. This report will create the foundation for the industry to grow from strength to strength. The combination of this data with data around Digital, TV and Radio will lead to multimedia statistics and measurement and the relevance of Print media will be highlighted even further in the years ahead. While the world is going Digital, Indian publishers need to do a lot more in terms of going digital, which was evident from the fact that only 5% of the people are reading the epapers. That’s a big growth area for us.
CEO, Sakal Media Group
The ranking of most publishers has not changed in their respective markets from the last IRS. It is interesting to note that although this is the case, the very publishers who spoke against the previous IRS are now happy with the current round, despite no change in rankings. Niche publications have been ignored, despite promises to the contrary, which is disappointing.
HORMUSJI N CAMA
Director, Bombay Samachar
There was a lot of turbulence and many complications over the last IRS. This time, however, the new data and numbers are much more specific. For example, there is a bifurcation for the main issue and variant issues. Digital has also been incorporated. The data has been made more robust with more in-depth analysis.
MD, VRL Media
Right now, it is exciting to see that the numbers have grown for both magazines and newspapers; that’s a positive start for Print media. They may have changed the methodology for assessing the total readership, but whether it’s TR or AIR, the one factor that stands out is that Print has grown, at a time when there is a hue and cry from other media, who come forward and say that Print is dying.
CEO, The Outlook Group
It is indeed heartening to note that magazines have grown 95% in Total Readership. That’s a phenomenal growth in three years, for any media segment. It’s all the more exciting for magazine publishers because of the bad patch we have had in the last few years with Readership Surveys.
CMO (North) & Head, Special Projects, Malayala Manorama
It’s an enormous work done by the team, led by NP Sathyamurthy, relentlessly for the last few years. All the improvements are on the basis of suggestions from the entire industry. Each one of us contributed with our own suggestions and recommendations. It was a combined effort of the MRUC and RSCI board and TechCorp. However, you cannot compare this data to anything else, because the sample size, methodology, etc., is different. It’s an exhaustive report and something like this has never been done before.
The IRS finding, specially with regard to magazines, is extremely heartening. It shows that there is an audience for content and that magazines have their own advantages in creating a connect with their readers. Magazine publishers now need to come together to project these figures to the audience.
Chairman & MD, Spenta Multimedia
The industry has created a new and, we expect, a credible ‘baseline’, against which future growth can be measured. Some of the revised metrics, such as monthly reach across all media, last 3-day and last 7-day readership along with total and average yesterday readership, separation of main and variants, will help standardize any comparisons. We expect the industry to embrace this IRS.
RAJIV C. LOCHAN
MD & CEO, The Hindu Group
The numbers shared at the launch were Total Readership, but there will be other data points reported like ‘yesterday readership’, 3-day and 7-day readership. It is nice to see growth in the total readership numbers and it should make the industry happy.
President, Business Standard & President, INS
For the last couple of years, we had no data at all, and it was difficult for spacesellers, because other than buying and negotiation, there was no other means. Now, the IRS numbers are very encouraging. IRS data is not only about Print. It’s about the entire industry. It has been done really scientifically. The best part is, Hindi readership has seen around 40% growth. Most importantly, overall Print has grown.
VP - Marketing (National), Prabhat Khabar
Congratulations to MRUC and RSCI for bringing out credible and authentic IRS data that was much needed after so many years. I understand the depth of work that goes in, the back-checks, the validations, new technology that you bring in, and I must compliment you for that. It’s also gratifying to see that the media landscape growing in our country and individual media vehicles delivering great growth. I also expect to see IRS in the Guinness Records!