As families get cosy, readership runs into cold in Himachal


Every time Media Research Users Council (MRUC) makes public its Indian Readership Survey (IRS), the media wars hot up across the country, especially in territories where the advertising stakes are high. The war is to catch not only the biggest pie of the advertiser’s budget, but also to catch the readers’ attention. However, another aspect of the IRS is some interesting socio-economic trends it reveals. Dhaleta Surender Kumar, a New Delhi based media analyst, has a close look at the two rounds of IRS 2008 in a Himachal-exclusive perspective and finds interesting trends, some of them unsettling.

Himachalis are reading less – if one were to sum-up massive data sheets and look beyond placid number crunching after the Round Two (R2) of IRS 2008, this emerges as one of the most outstanding outcomes of the survey in Himachal Pradesh’s perspective. If, in the age of all-round media proliferation this fact seems unsettling, the apparent reason for this is even more dramatic – Himachalis are increasingly going back to the joint-type family structures.

The total readership (TR) of all publications in the state has gone down from 77.41 lakh in R1 of 2008 to 70.54 lakh in R2, a loss of TR of nearly seven lakh. While both Hindi and English dailies have lost readers, the loss of English dailies seems to be large. While Hindi daily (any Hindi daily, the term used by MRUC for the survey) has a TR of 22.45 lakh, it has lost 11,000 readers since the last round in the state. Similarly, the English dailies have a TR of 2.59 lakh, after a loss of 49,000 readers in the state since the last round.

Delhi-based and renowned media analyst A S Raghunath ascribes this to an interesting trend, which is unlike the rest of the country. “If you see the family structure in Himachal, a population of 3.44 lakh has moved from the ‘nuclear without elders’ to the joint family structure. In R1, 33.24 people lived in nuclear families without elders. In R2, 29.80 lakh people are living in ‘nuclear family without elders’. There has been a jump of 18.63 per cent of the population living in joint families – a rise from 12.13 lakh in R1 to 14. 39 lakh in R2. Similarly, a 22.41 per cent jump has been seen in the increase in ‘nuclear families with elders’,” says Raghunath. This is an unusual trend, he says, unlike cities, where more population is moving towards nuclear families.

The figures speak for themselves. The TR in the ‘nuclear without elders’ for English dailies has gone down from 1.66 lakh in R1 to 1.23 lakh in R2 – a loss of almost 26 per cent. Similarly for Hindi dailies, the TR for this segment has gone down from 15.61 lakh in R1 to 12.93 lakh in R2 – a TR loss of  2.68 lakh (17.17 per cent). Interpreting the trends Raghunath says, “In large families, it’s the elders who first read the newspaper before going out to office. But by the time they finish reading, it’s time for others to leave for school, college or for their work.”

The IRS 2008 R2 also points to the classical yet widening Hindi-English vs Rural-Urban divide in newspaper readership. While English daily readership has gone down by 57 per cent in the rural areas, since the last round (from 2.20 lakh in R1 to 1.63 lakh in R2) in the state, urban English daily readership has gone up from 89,000 to 95,000. The loss for Hindi dailies in percentage terms in the rural areas is minuscule – a loss of 1.20 per cent, going down from 18.39 lakh in R1 to 18.17 in R2. In urban areas, Hindi daily readership has gone up from 4.17 lakh in R1 to 4.28 lakh.

But the brighter side is that more females than before are now reading newspapers more (Does it speak of the high female literacy rate in the state?). But they seem to have dumped English dailies in favour of Hindi, while males’ preference remains English. English dailies have lost 57,000 female readers, a loss of 36.31 per cent. The female TR for English dailies has gone down from 1.57 lakh in R1 to one lakh in R2. This loss to English dailies is Hindi dailies’ gain who have added 2.26 lakh new female readers since R1 (when the figure was 6.22 lakh).

As for the male segment, English dailies have added 8,000 more new readers since R1 (when the TR for this segment and for the category was 1.51 lakh). Nearly 2.38 lakh men have given up reading Hindi dailies, a loss of 14.56 per cent – the numbers going down from 16.35 lakh in R1 to 13.97 lakh.

Another interesting outcome is that Himachali youth seem to be more comfortable with Hindi than English (Does this speak of the neglect of English language in Hinachal’s schools, despite the government professing a commitment towards English language education?). Quoting the IRS findings, Raghunath makes another interesting point. In R1, 1.34 lakh youth in the age group of 15-19 years read English dailies. In this round, the number has fallen to 55,000, a loss of almost 59 per cent. Meanwhile, a chunk of this group has made a shift towards Hindi dailies, which have gained eight per cent in this group since the last round. “Hindi dailies, which neglected the youth initially have started catering to this segment with special supplements for them. This youth is comfortable in Hindi. Now as the Hindi dailies have started catering to this segment, they need not look at English dailies any more,” he says.

Where English dailies have lost, English periodicals have gained as compared to their Hindi counterparts in the state. ‘Any English Weekly’ has a TR of 65,000, a gain of 16,000; English monthlies (TR of  1.46 lakh in R2) have gained 9,000 readers since the last round and at the same time, English fortnightlies with a TR of 10,000 have had a jump of 70 per cent. Meanwhile, Hindi periodicals in all the segments have lost. Hindi weeklies (TR of 96,000 in R2) have lost 25,000 readers since R1 in the state; Hindi monthlies have lost the most with a loss of 1.13 lakh readers, since R1 when they enjoyed a TR of 3.12 lakh. In this round, Hindi monthlies have a mere TR of 1.99 lakh. As for Hindi fortnightlies, they have lost a TR of 31,000, down from 1.24 lakh in R1 of 2008 to 93,000 in R2 of 2008.

To be fair enough to publications, as IRS is based on sampling, statistical errors here and there cannot be ruled out. Notwithstanding this, media analysts and planners still take the survey, besides circulation figures, into account while designing their media plan. Also, publications themselves tend to ‘creatively interpret’ these figures to their benefit. They could be strong in TR and weak in AIR (average issue readership) or the vice-versa. So invariably they dole out more ‘friendly figures’. They also tend to break it down into SECs, age groups and gender, to see where the figures speak a rosy picture for them. I’ve here tried to be fair enough to all of them.

Continue reading ‘Hindi dailies reign despite overall readership losses in HP’ for crunched readership numbers on Himachal.

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A perfect story-teller, who is madly in love with the hills. Shimla is his first love, and probably the last too. Won't get tired reading Rudyard Kipling. Hopes to pick up poetry again soon.

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  1. The warning that Napolean put out two hundred years ago is still valid.

    No country more than China fears a free press that’s why it deploys huge manpower to clamp it down.

    It has even succeeded in imposing a censorship on the internet.

    Coming to the statistical analysis done by Vividhaditya and corroborated by AS Raghunath, a decline in readership us good news for the existing power structure.

    The more people remain ignorant about the follies the governing classes commit the longer they can perpetuate their position at the helm of affairs.

    However, going by the fall in attendances one notices in public rallies, protests, demonstrations or general apathy towards civil society around, one wonders whether an overdose of media is responsible for it.

    There is so much of media hype, even in Himachal Pradesh that people have simply withdrawn into the comfort of joint families.

    Another argument could equally true is that a fall in readership must be directly proportional to the increase in viewership.

  2. Taking off fm d last para…Mark Twain said,”Get yr facts 1st,and then u can distort’en as nuch as u please!”
    D country which has d highest no. of people in d world (talking of free press…China doesn’t count!). As in d case of pol parties so is with d media – any TUM, DICK & HUM starts 1 & claims 2 b d ‘sole survivor’ in this rat race instead of ‘soul saviour’…G.B.Shaw says,”Newspapers r unable,seemingly,2 discriminate between a bicycle accident & d collapse of civilization.”
    Literacy may increse d circulation but how many of d circulated bring about education?! ” D difference between literature & journalism is that journalism is unreadable,and literature is not read!” – Oscar Wilde.
    Success in school is very different fm success in life.
    Last but not d least…”I fear 3 newspapers more than a 1000 bayonets!” Napolean Bonaparte.

  3. If the people have shunned newspapers, it also calls for a study whether some good ( or bad) literature is being read in Himachal. Or, is Himachal creating some better literature that people are getting hooked onto?

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