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“Publications like Dainik Jagran have only highlighted some markets where the results are not in their favour”

vivek_khanna2The new Indian Readership Survey 2013 has irked a lot of publications. While 18 publishers have raised their voice against the authenticity of the data, Hindustan Media Ventures Ltd (HMVL), the biggest beneficiary of the data, is completely in support of the data.

In an interview with TelevisionPost.com’s Gaurav Laghate, HMVL CEO Vivek Khanna defends IRS and explains the rationale behind its success.

Excerpt…

Q. Many publications have raised concerns about the authenticity of the IRS data. Are you satisfied with the findings or do you think there are discrepancies?

A. The new IRS is a highly credible, well-designed and well-executed process. This work has been done with wide industry participation over the last one and a half years at various stages. Members from leading publications, media agencies and the advertiser community have been part of this journey, resulting in a far more robust process than we ever had before.

All of us recall that a similar hue and cry was raised when TV measurement data moved from the diary method to a more accurate ‘people-meter’ method. The current methodology of IRS is far more scientific and robust, and reflects a more accurate and updated picture of reality. Any survey, by definition, will upset some publications. The current complaints against the IRS are just a case of shooting the messenger.

Q. Does the IRS 13 data indicate the continuing vibrancy of the print sector?

A. The new IRS has once again emphatically shown that print continues to thrive in India with a reach of over 280 million readers. It clearly has a massive reach of nearly 50% among those reached by any media vehicle, which continues to make print a very good media vehicle for advertisers.

Q. How satisfied are you with the performance of Hindustan as reflected in the IRS?

A. We are satisfied with the performance of Hindustan since it is in line with the large investments we have been making in growing its circulation and also strengthening its product across markets.

Especially, given the large gap from the previous round of research, the progress is quite substantial, and reflects the significant progress made on the ground.

Q. How did you manage to grow by over 16.3% or 2 million AIR in a scenario where the majority of publications have seen a dip?

A. Given a complete change in methodology and the recalibration of the census base numbers, it is actually not correct to compare with the last round. However, in case one has to keep the last round numbers as a very rough yardstick, you would note that our growths have come only from UP, a market where we have doubled our circulation over the past few years. This has been supported consistently with good editorial content, raising issues of public interest and on-the-ground activities in building traction among readers.

Previously, the long reporting cycle of old IRS of 15 months (12 months in field + three months reporting) led to a large lag in reporting as it was a moving annual total. On top of that, the gap of one year where no IRS was reported means these results are actually reporting on-the-ground progress made over the last one-and-a-half to two years.

Q. In Uttar Pradesh, you have seen a 70% jump. In the rural markets in the state, it is even better. What measures were taken to improve the circulation?

A. We had a multi-pronged strategy for this over the years. To begin with, we created customised editions across districts based on reader preferences. Secondly, a very granular level of circulation planning and execution is done extensively across the state for us. Thirdly, we used technology at all levels for greater efficiencies, including news gathering, printing capacities and communication.

Our local advertisers have seen our readership strengthening on the ground and we have witnessed a huge growth in our advertising from the local advertisers over the years. That has been another clear testimony to our on-the-ground growths. In that overall context, we are happy to see in this round of the IRS a true reflection of the ground reality today which has resulted from our years of effort.

Q. Why do you think readership in Jharkhand and Bihar dropped by almost 17% and 11%?

A. As I said earlier, given the change in methodology and the census base numbers, it is not correct to compare with the last round. The larger trend to note in both the markets is that both the markets have seen nearly stable relative market share positions for players—a fact that is consistent with the ground reality.

Q. Jagran Prakashan and DB Corp have said that it’s not possible for Hindustan to gain this much in Uttarakhand, specifically because you have only one printing centre and covering the state is not possible with one printing centre.

A. Comments from publications like Dainik Jagran have only highlighted some markets where the results are not in their favour. Markets where results are in their favour, like Jharkhand or Lucknow, have been conveniently ignored.

Q. Even in city like Kanpur, your readership is close to 11 readers per copy, while Dainik Jagran’s is three readers per copy. Any specific reasons for such high numbers?

A. Readers-per-copy is a highly fallacious argument for a set of reasons. Firstly, there is no single and uniform measure of circulation. While ABC is one of the measures, the ABC data is not a substitute for actual circulation. ABC has very specific rules with regard to pricing, and hence in many markets actual copies being circulated are far higher than the ABC copies.

If ABC were to be a benchmark, Dainik Jagran should have zero readership in Patna as it doesn’t have an ABC-certified number. Furthermore most English papers would not be read by any Mumbaiite, because there are no ABC numbers for any of the main papers! If we were to take ABC for Mumbai, reported numbers for The Times of India and Hindustan Times would be a fraction of the real circulation, and therefore the RPC would be astronomical, neither of which negates the truth about our progress there which has been affirmed not only by advertisers but also now the IRS.

Secondly, readership is a result of distribution plus the quality of the editorial content. Numerous flyers and other reading material sent out are never read if the content is not relevant or stimulating for the reader. Some organisations are known to print copies and discard them purely as a ploy to ask for higher readership. Copies going into waste, almost untouched by hand, cannot, and should not, be included in readership.