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New IRS 2013 data mired in controversy

MUMBAI: Just after the release of Indian Readership Survey (IRS) 2013 data by Media Research Users Council (MRUC) and Nielsen, a few disgruntled publishers have already started questioning the authenticity of the data.

While some publications voiced their concerns during the press conference in New Delhi on Wednesday, Essel Group-owned English newspaper DNA chose to take it out publicly on its front page.

DB Corp, publishers of popular Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar, Gujarati daily Divya Bhaskar and Marathi daily Dainik Divya Marathi, has sent out a detailed presentation, a copy of which is with TelevisionPost.com, highlighting “a lot of anomalies and illogical finding in IRS 13 report”.

Giving a state-wise observation for markets like MP, Chhatisgarh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, it has stated, “This is corroborated that the process and approach applied for this report [IRS 2013] is completely irrational, unscientific and very far from accuracy, market perception and ground realities.”

In its report titled ‘DNA questions new IRS numbers’, the daily said, “The IRS 2013 is out in the public domain. However, ‘DNA’ contests the data presented by MRUC.”

“There’s a clear mismatch between the survey figures and our own database. DNA has a robust subscription base and we have the names, contact numbers and addresses of most of our readers, who have opted for a paid subscription scheme. This also shows our loyal reader base, which is extremely stable. We would, therefore, like to know the basis of IRS’ readings. There seems to be an honest error on the part of MRUC and we have written to the Director-General and the Chairman of the Technical Committee of MRUC for clarification. We trust the IRS would take corrective measures immediately.”

When contacted, Nielsen India MD media Prashant Singh informed that MRUC has already asked all the publications, who have issues with the data, to write to them. “MRUC has asked them to write their concerns. MRUC will revert to them within one week,” Singh told TelevisionPost.com. He, however, declined to comment on the issues raised by both DNA and DB Corp.

Incidentally, DNA, which was the No. 6 English daily with an average issue readership (AIR) of 972,222 as per the Q4 of IRS 2012, did not find a place in the top 10 as per the new IRS 2013. While the full data was not available till the filing of this report, DNA’s AIR as per the new top 10 players will have to be less than 337,000, which marks a drop of over 65 per cent.

DB Corp’s Dainik Bhaskar, on the other hand, has slipped to the third position among Hindi dailies, losing ground to ‘Hindustan’. ‘Dainik Bhaskar’ saw a 10.8 per cent dip in AIR in IRS 2013, compared to Q4 IRS 2012.

A senior media buyer, who did not wish to be quoted, said, “The data has come out at a very unfortunate time as the annual deals with advertisers are due in a month. Besides, if they [print media] were expecting gains because of issues that the broadcasting industry was facing [TAM and ad cap], now those will not come either.”

Another media buyer said that the new data has shown an overall decline in readership and in individual publication levels of many. “Many of my clients have raised concerns over the data. A lot of publications are not happy with the data. You may find many more questions raised in 5–6 days,” she said.

However, IRS technical committee chairman Paritosh Joshi rubbished any claims about the authenticity of data. He said that the whole process and methodology has changed and this data is much more robust. “If people feel offended by something they see and if they believe they need remedy or seek redress, they have the right to do so. The point is that our task is to deliver a completive research. The numbers are just outcomes. The numbers are not input. The input is the thinking, the methodology that goes into the process.”

He further added that comparing the numbers with the last IRS data is simply misplaced as everything has changed. “Why did we do that? Because they only told us that the last IRS was inconsistent and untrustworthy. Today, if they are using the same old IRS to justify their anger with the new IRS, they need to make up their mind. Either you did or did not trust that. If you did, then why did we change?” Joshi argued.

He also explained the reason for the drop in the AIR figures of publications. “We have redesigned the whole process. In the new questionnaire, we are not asking if you read the newspaper in the last one year. The question is which newspaper you read in the last one month, and how many times. We have tightened the definition. Obviously, this is more demanding definition, and there will be less number of people reporting.”

Joshi emphasised that the new changes are meant only to make the study more representative of the reality of the consumer. “This mirrors what really happens in the world,” he added.

While officials of DNA declined to comment, those of DB Corp were not available till the filing this report.

A lot of action is expected in a couple of weeks from now. Watch this space for updates.

Also Read:

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All new IRS 2013 data holds surprises and shocks