February 19, 2020
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Startling Revelations

The fifth National Readership Survey shatters some popular myths dominating the media world

Startling Revelations
outlookindia.com
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There are no 'did you know?' type of statistical pulses in the fifth National Readership Survey (NRS-V) 1995, the results of which were released last month. The deluge of statistics gleaned from 107,000 individuals aged 15 and above years in over 345 towns across India based on the 1991 census, scores over the last NRS of 1990 on sheer quantum. Numerical superiority alone taints a bit of the data with a 'how can this happen?' hue. But, surprises apart, the survey goes on to demolish several myths, one of them being the oft quoted estimate by various satellite channels that more than 15 million households in India have Cable & Satellite (C&S) connections. The survey came up with a figure of 9.3 million households.

Conducted by four research organisations, IMRB, MARG, MODE and MRAS, the media survey covers 431 publications besides radio and cinema and has gems scattered for media planners. A few samplers: Want to know about the shifting trends in Socio-Economic Class (SEC) profiles? While in 1990 nearly two-thirds of the urban population lived in relatively smaller towns, these towns now account for just 55 per cent of the population (that's grim news for urban planners). Median Monthly Household Income (MHI) has also increased across all SEC segments by approximately 1.5 per cent as compared to 1990 – that year one-third of all urban homes had an MHI of less than Rs 750. Now there are only 12 per cent such homes. There's also a sub-sect, A1+, for those advertisers wanting to target house-holds with an MHI of Rs 10,000-plus, those who have the money for PCs, two-wheelers, fancy steroes and, now, cellulars. The number: 0.9 per cent of roughly 45 million households.

The MHI also has something for India's feminists to mull over. In one out of every 20 households, the chief wage earner is a woman. This differs quite markedly form the class with an MHI of less than s 750. Here, in one out of every six households the chief wage earner is a woman!

What about the media planner wanting figures on TV set penetration in India? Well, there are 27 million households with TV sets in India, up 8 million since 1990. Here's more information on the same subject: 30 per cent of the households have colour TV sets, 12.5 per cent of them have remote control facilities and 55 per cent of the 88 million urban adults who have access to the idiot box watch television everyday.

While television is undoubtedly becoming the monolith threatening the growth of the print media, it is simply mauling radio and cinema. The reach of the radio dropped from 46 per cent in 1990 to 34 per cent in 1995 and cinema from 31 per cent to 24 per cent. The decline in big screen viewership, however, is not so pronounced in the 15 to 24-year-old segment where a large chunk visit movie theatres at least once a month. English movies, predictably, remain the preference of just 3 per cent of the population. The print medium, on the other hand, registered only a marginal increase of 2 per cent going up to 46 per cent in spite of an increase in the number of literates in urban India by 20 million since 1990.

A significant finding of the survey is the high reach of the print medium in C&S homes. Advertisers can thus effectively supplement the targeting of C&S viewers by using the press. While the English daily position continued to be the same, the Indian Express showed a steady decline in readership in Bombay, Delhi and Madras. Among the language dailies, the Punjab Kesri has become a serious contender for the first position and could well displace the Navbharat Times in the next NRS.

Mention must also be made here of some rather quirky findings. For instance, while the circulation of The Tribune has remained the same, its readership has grown by 192,000 readers. Conversely, while the circulation of the Decand Herald has increased by 9,000 copies since 1990, its readership has suffered by 78,000. To top it all, a mere 17,000 drop in the circulation of the Taranga, led to a readership decline of 627,000 readers.

Finally, the survey has come up with a new measure to examine the value of a magazine as an advertising vehicle. Instead of depending upon the Average Issue Readership which could result in both over and under-estimates, the research agencies suggest Magazine Page Exposure of MPX as a new index for advertisers. MPX is a system of measuring the number of times the average reader opens an advertising page of a particular magazine, irrespective of whether it is the current issue or not. Essentially, MPX is issue pick-up multiplied by proportion by respondent for each magazine and the scores are added together to get the total page exposure estimates.

While certain myths have indeed been shattered for now, given the unpredictability of human nature and market forces, it remains to be seen whether the next NRS again turns these truths on their heads. But for that, publications have breathing space for at least another five years.

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