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IRS 13: Media agencies agree on ‘glaring errors’ but say too early to trash the report

MUMBAI: With 18 leading publications, including Dainik Jagran, Dainik Bhaskar and the Times Group, publically condemning the findings of the new Indian Readership Survey 2013 (IRS 13), the media agencies too have pricked their ears and now accept that the data needs validation.

While the media buyers TelevisionPost.com spoke to agreed that there were some ‘very illogical’ findings, they also added that it would be too hasty and early to completely trash the report. Instead, they would like to wait for greater clarity.

They now await the outcome of the decisive meeting between representatives of the Indian Newspapers Society (INS) and Media Research Users Council (MRUC), scheduled on Monday, 3 February.

“We will get more clarity on Monday, after the meeting between MRUC and INS. Publishers have already made their point that they want MRUC to withdraw the results immediately,” a senior media buyer said. “Something is really wrong with the data. However, it is too early to comment, as we don’t know yet what solution MRUC comes up with.”

Meanwhile, the pressure on MRUC is building. For the first time 18 publications have forged an alliance against them.

According to a top executive of one of the disgruntled publications, “MRUC has no option but to withdraw the data. Never in the past have so many publications come together. If they [MRUC] don’t budge, we might withdraw subscription.”

The 18 publications and publishers— Bennett Coleman & Co (BCCL),  The Hindu, Dainik Bhaskar, Dainik Jagran, DNA, India Today, Aaj Samaj, Ananda Bazar Patrika, Outlook, Mid-Day, The Statesman, Amar Ujala, Bartaman, , Dinakaran, Lokmat, Nai Dunia, Sakshi and The Tribune—have issued a joint statement urging advertisers and media agencies not to rely on or use the ‘recently published’ IRS results in any way.

When asked if the agencies would concede to the publishers’ demand, another top executive with a media buying agency added, “It is too early to comment on that. We are still processing the data. Yes, there are glaring errors, but it’s not the time yet to completely accept or trash the new findings.”

In their statement the publications said, “We, the leading newspapers of the country, condemn the newly published IRS 2013 in the strongest possible terms. The survey is riddled with shocking anomalies, which defy logic and common sense.”

The statement went on to contend that the survey completely ignored circulation, the very basis of readership, and grossly contradicted audited circulation figures (ABC).

It further highlighted the following anomalies:

  • There are wild swings in overall newspaper readership across the states. Every major newspaper in Andhra Pradesh, irrespective of language, has de-grown by 30–65%.
  • English-language readership in Tamil Nadu has decreased by 38%.
  • There are similarly wild swings at the city level. Mumbai shows a 20.3% growth in overall English readership, while Delhi (a faster growing city overall on all macro indices) shows a drop of 19.5%.
  • Hitavada, the leading English newspaper of Nagpur with a certified circulation of over 60,000, doesn’t appear to have a single reader now!
  • The Hindu Business Line has thrice as many readers in Manipur as in Chennai.
  • While Punjab has lost a whopping one-third of all its readers in just a year since the last IRS, neighbouring Haryana has grown by 17%.

“We also strongly ask RSCI and MRUC, the conductors of the Indian Readership Survey, to withdraw the results of IRS Q4 2013 immediately 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,” the statement stated.

All efforts to reach MRUC chairman Ravi Rao did not elicit any response.

When asked what could have given rise to the errors, a publisher said, “They [MRUC] have not been able to validate the data. There were times when there was corruption at the ground level, but it gets checked when random calls are made to the respondents. This time, in a hurry to release the report, those checks were not made. While the methodology is not wrong, the data collection is flawed,” he said.

On the future course of action, another top executive of a media buying company said, “We are going through tough times. With all the issues surrounding TAM, BARC and the possible ratings blackout, the television media is already in a state of flux. Print, which generally was a less complicated segment, has now become the same. Though it’s not a crisis situation, it needs to be corrected soon. Till then, I guess we will have to continue with the last available data.”

Also read:

All new IRS 2013 data holds surprises and shocks
DB Corp spotlights anomalies in IRS 2013 data
New IRS 2013 data mired in controversy