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IRS 2017: FAQs with Ashish Bhasin, Chairman, MRUC

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IRS 2017: FAQs with Ashish Bhasin, Chairman, MRUC

With the total readership of newspapers crossing 40 crore from the earlier 29 plus readers, Ashish Bhasin, chairman MRUC (Media Research Users Council) and Chairman and CEO, Dentsu Aegis Networks couldn’t be more happy with the findings of IRS (Indian Readership Survey). The study covered a full year sample size of 3.2 lakh households, an unprecedented 34 per cent increase over the previous edition of the study in 2014.
We spoke to Bhasin on the checks and balances of IRS, methodology with new companies like Vedsur on board, interpreting the data and why it’s not fair to compare with previous data:

What were the major changes to the system this year to make the data robust?
This sample size of 3.2 lakh is the world's largest; the larger the sample, the more robust are the numbers. We used the Computer Aided Personal Interview (CAPI) methodology and put in a lot of checks and balances in place. These included not just flying squad checks by Nielsen but we also insisted that most of the surveyors were actually employees of Neilsen. We also partnered with E&Y to audit the research. There were back checks done by the MRUC secretariat which has never been done before at such a huge scale. Agencies also sent people on surprise checks to the field. 
We appointed a company that was an expert in audio recording which checked at least 35,000 of them. We appointed an agency called Vedsur with international experience that spots outliers in the data to independently validate the 10% of the collected data.

Can subscribers compare IRS2017 to any previous studies?
This data cannot be compared to any other data because it’s a different sample size. It has a much bigger size with a new methodology. So strictly speaking this data is not comparable. If you are comparing with the past you are actually comparing apples and oranges.

How should agencies interpret this data?
We are flagging the main paper and variants for the first time. There are codes of conduct that have been advised by the subscribers, clearly telling them what they can do.

What were the assumptions that were made about the industry that you think have been validated now?
The single biggest prediction was that IRS2017 won't come. The very fact that we are sitting here and launched it is in itself a big step forward.
The general impression was that print is a dying medium. IRS has clearly shown readership is increasing and a new breed of readers are coming. More newspapers and magazines have been launched in the last four years. Literacy levels have significantly risen, especially, in rural areas.So, readership will increase in India which is very different from the rest of the world.

Will we continue to see more of IRS?
It has to become regular. The research is continuous. The reporting so far is annual. I would like to see it becoming half yearly and later quarterly. There has to be continuous research and improvement. Next year we have to find more things to improve. For instance, sample size needs to grow bigger. Maybe a new technology will be available one year from now... 
We have to be ready to be adapting that. A lot of the stuff done this year could not have been possible three years ago even if we wanted to because either the technology didn’t exist or it was too expensive or wasn't easily usable.

Online readership is only 4 crore whereas mobile penetration more than 90 per cent...
Four crore is probably more than the readership of most countries. It’s a large number. Going ahead it will start growing rapidly.

What did you miss during the data dark period?
Data! We were working blind. I think the print medium (which is the second largest medium) suffered for not having data. And to not have data is ridiculous in a country like India.

Transcribed by Madhuwanti Saha

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