The Media Research Users Council (MRUC) like the previous Indian Readership Survey (IRS) released in 2017, have again shown that India's print media is in the green, with a growth in total readership (TR) numbers in the first quarter results of IRS 2019.
The council has retained the metrics introduced in the previous survey, which were on the basis of yesterday recall (AIR), three days recall, seven days recall and one month recall (TR). One is free to use any of the metrics suitable to a particular need.
Like any other organisation’s press release that beats the drum around any positive development, MRUC’s statement also carried a headline, “Print continues to expand; total number of readers touches 42 crore”. Many trade publications toed MRUC’s line in their headlines, which triggered a controversy around the claimed growth of print in India.
Reacting quickly to one such headline, Paritosh Joshi, Founder of Provocateur Advisory, who was also the Chairman of the Technical Committee of IRS until the 2014 survey when he had to face a massive protest from a majority of the publishers, tweeted, “Don't fall for the headline. The currency number for readership is AIR: Average Issue Readership. Which has *dropped* by 0.5%. @mruc must define 'Total Readership' before making such claims..(sic)”
Anant Rangaswami, Editor of MELT on WION, advisor to Unmetric, was quick to add to Joshi’s tweet by calling out the survey and termed it “Indian Rubbish Survey”.
Indian Rubbish Survey. https://t.co/rsEOgRtjXe— Anant Rangaswami (@AnantRangaswami) April 27, 2019
Rangaswami’s tweet attracted sharp and immediate reactions from Ashish Bhasin, CEO, Greater South and Chairman and CEO, India, Dentsu Aegis Network and Chairman, MRUC; Vikram Sakhuja, Group CEO Madison Media and OOH, Madison World and IRS Technical Committee Chairman; and Shashi Sinha, CEO of IPG Media Brands.
Suggesting Rangaswami to read the current IRS, Sakhuja wrote, “Anant suggest you to study this IRS. You may change your opinion.”
Sinha, commenting on Rangaswami’s remarks, said, “On the contrary shows 'power of print ' is alive and kicking in India. To my knowledge, IRS gives out multiple sets of numbers like TR and AIR to name a few ...it is for the user to make a choice (sic).”
Bhasin, while replying to Sinha’s comment, said, “@Shashimediabran Absolutely correct. @AnantRangaswami TR, AIR and other cuts are all available to the subscribers now. More information and data for them to make more informed decisions. And for the first time, the entire process has been digitised. @VikramSakhuja and tech com have done a super job.”
Even as Rangaswami launched the attack on IRS in public on Twitter, he later replied to Bhasin saying, “Will meet and discuss. This can’t be done on social media.” According to the Twitter conversation, Rangaswami will seek time to meet Bhasin on Tuesday.
While Joshi’s comment on IRS projecting print’s growth on the basis of total readership and humiliating MRUC in public could be understood because of what happened with him in 2014, Rangaswami’s rubbishing of IRS is bizarre considering he manages the ‘Power of Print’ campaign run by The Times of India, the same newspaper that is boasting of 17% growth achieved in the current survey on the basis of total readership.
After the 2017 survey, BestMediaInfo.com was highly critical of MRUC’s step to create four metrics leading to more confusion and rooted for abolishing the AIR on the basis of yesterday recall through a series of articles: Commentary: Rethink the AIR, else meet the fate of print in West; IRS 2017: Is it time to do away with AIR on basis of yesterday’s recall?; IRS 2017: Will it be AIR vs TR?. Although that did not happen, the council did not object to the constructive criticism with a purpose of saving print as the articles were based upon the changing consumer behaviour reflecting the sentiments of the majority of stakeholders.
This time around, MRUC on the one hand has done its best to make IRS fool-proof with the help of technology, on the other hand, it has shown that the council will not bow down to any effort to destabilise its reputation. The sharp response from the office-bearers of the council also reflects the confidence that its survey is nearly free of any discrepancy. In such a situation, it is highly unlikely that the council will take any such comment by the fraternity lightly.
Coming back to the claim of degrowth in AIR by Joshi, BestMediaInfo.com has analysed whether the AIR has actually fallen by 0.5% or not. Click here to read.