NEW DELHI: Less than a month after its introduction, the new-look Indian Readership Survey has been temporarily suspended while the data is revalidated and any necessary changes made by the end of March.

A group of 18 news publishers had questioned the results of the survey, produced by the Media Research Users Council (MRUC), and demanded its withdrawal. They pointed to "shocking anomalies" such as the finding that some publications had no readership in cities where they had editions but relatively high number of readers in cities where these publications had recently launched or had minimal circulation.

"One hopes a truer picture will emerge from the exercise now being undertaken. This was the right thing to do in the context of the all-round scepticism over the validity of their estimates of readership," N. Ravi, editor-in-chief of The Hindu, told Livemint.

The latest edition was compiled using a changed methodology that the MRUC claimed made the data "much more robust". Chairman Ravi Rao had also cautioned that the data was not comparable with previous surveys "as this data is unique and very different" but newspaper owners appeared to do exactly that.

Media buyers did not expect the temporary withdrawal of the survey to affect rates. "We don't see any short-term impact on ad revenues or ad rates, as unlike in television, the data for print is not seen on a weekly or monthly basis," said CVL Srinivas, CEO GroupM (South Asia).

The television world is currently embroiled in its own version of this dispute as broadcasters and ratings agency argue over the reliability of audience figures and the government introduces a regulatory framework.

Mallikarjun Das, CEO, Starcom MediaVestGroup India, mused that television faced a similar upheaval to print if a proposed new system from BARC was introduced as, like the IRS, that would not produce comparable figures with the earlier format.

He noted that over the past year "it seems to have become a habit for people to blame the currency for every single thing".

Referring to the IRS, he said that "we should take a measured view on this", arguing that "the belief is that things have changed for the better; that's the premise we're going with".

Data sourced from Livemint, Afaqs!; additional content by Warc staff