Measuring landing page impact – a self-destruction tool for the industry and BARC India

The landing page was termed legal by TDSAT in 2019 but measuring its impact remains the bone of contention for the news industry

Niraj Sharma
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Measuring landing page impact – a self-destruction tool for the industry and BARC India

BARC India’s handling of TRP generated through the landing pages has once again created mayhem in the small-but-highly-competitive news genre. The new system or algorithm meant to tackle the outliers has upset the pecking order of both Hindi and English news genres ever since the news ratings resumed on March 17.

Immediately after the ratings resumed, revealed the names of the news channels that were running on landing pages across several headends.

The channels with deeper pockets intensified their landing page coverage in the coming weeks which completely exposed BARC India’s outlier management system.

The industry experts said that the current system is “as good as having no system in place.”

“Remember Week 22 of 2019 when BARC India released data without filtering out outliers following a TDSAT order? The week saw CNN-News18 positioned as the No. 1 English news channel, upsetting every other rival in the genre. Today, the industry is being forced to come full circle and repeat the errors of its past,” an industry analyst said.

Arguments: For and against

The channels resorting to the landing page route justify themselves with the analogy of “products displayed at shops, stores and malls” as a part of marketing.

“Every product has the right to ‘opportunity to see (OTS)’ and in the case of a news channel, a landing page ensures high OTS. If you stop measuring landing impact, then by that logic there should be no shelf display allowed in shops and modern trade by companies Ike Unilever, P&G and ITC,” said a senior executive arguing in favour.

Rubbishing the analogy of shelf display, a broadcast veteran said that the samples displayed at shops certainly give OTS but they are not forced or coerced on customers to buy. “The display at shops does not necessarily make the manufacturer/brand/company No. 1 overnight. In TRPs, this is what happens.”

“The analogy of shelf display to justify the landing page is faulty. That is ‘opportunity to see’, and the benefit of the landing page must be limited to OTS rather than making a channel No.1. At best it could be compared with the free sampling of products which does not translate into the company’s revenues. Contrary to this, if the landing page impact is not being mitigated, the channels earn revenues from advertisers who buy channels for reach,” the veteran added.

Will news TV be all about big corporate houses?

With Adani entering the media business, the industry is fearing that the landing page chaos will throw every other player out of the race.

“Imagine Adani buying a channel struggling at the end of the pecking order and putting a lot of money on the landing page to make the channel No.1. In that case, the news television space will only be about Adani and Reliance-backed channels, as no other network or channel can afford that much money,” a media analyst said.

“People who were batting in favour of the landing page impact being measured have started realising the brunt. Mark my words, every other player will be on the losing side and it would soon turn into a two-player race. Where will everyone hide their faces then?” the analyst quipped.

Is BARC even serious?

BARC India must wake up before it is too late, an upset broadcaster quipped.

He said, “The great industry leaders on the BARC Board are fully aware that cable operators freeze their landing pages for a few minutes in order to benefit their clients. In that case, how can they allow measuring landing page impact even if it happens in 10% of all the deals? Where do they want to take the industry, particularly BARC India? Are BARC India management and Board even serious about running the rating agency that was created after a huge exercise?”

Looking up to I&B ministry

After the I&B ministry ordered BARC India to release the news ratings, a section of news channels was pressing for several reforms before the release of the viewership data, and the treatment of viewership generated through the landing pages was the biggest concern.

Amid all the chaos, I&B Secretary Apurva Chandra told that it is the industry’s imperative to resolve the issue of landing pages. “However, I don’t see a reason why this issue is being prolonged. Why cannot data coming from the boot-up screen where a viewer does not even stay for a few minutes be marked as outliers?” he said.

A senior executive from a prominent news network affected by the landing page demanded that the ministry must step in before it is too late for any course correction.

Possible solutions

The industry has been pushing for parity and a level playing field. They want that the impact of the landing page should either be completely removed from the final data, or it should be reported separately.

This will bring transparency in the outlier management system and create a consensus among all the players on this issue,” said an analyst quoted above.

BARC had done this once in the past. Reporting the viewership data for the English news genre for Week 33 of 2018 on August 27, 2018, BARC had mentioned above the chart: “Certain channels in the genre are seeing higher growth in Week 33 2018 due to some on-ground changes.”

Experts say that the ratings agency needs to do this more precisely, revealing the exact impact and not leave this opaque and vague for different interpretations.

“The possible solution is that the agency spells out the data coming from landing pages in a more granular form and a set format. So that it becomes clear to both advertisers and broadcasters and there are no controversies in the future,” the expert added.

BARC India Measuring landing page impact