KUALA LUMPUR: Newspapers should conduct their own research on what readers want to complement findings from the sole media research agency in the country, a forum called The Truth in Readership Data was told.
Media planning agency Mindshare managing director Henry Tan said newspapers were missing the point if they doubted or started blaming the agency for giving unfavourable findings of their readership.
“If the research result is unflattering, why not conduct your own qualitative research to supplement the findings and improve on the product,” he told some 200 participants comprising people from the advertisement and media industry at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club here yesterday.
He said that having two media research agencies was not the answer because it would only confuse advertisers.
The forum, organised by Media Specialist Association, took place against a backdrop of dissatisfaction from the New Straits Times and The Sun, which complained that the rating agency AC Nielsen had underrated their readership.
Moderated by OMD (M) Sdn Bhd managing director Clint Easthorpe, the forum featured a panel comprising Tan, AC Nielsen Southeast Asia executive director Philip Rich, West Port executive chairman Tan Sri Gnanalingam, International Islamic University Malaysia Datuk Prof Syed Arabi Idid, and Nielsen Media Research executive director Danyal Abdul Malik.
Tan said that although research often favoured the leading newspapers, “not being number one had its own advantages and strengths”.
“These newspapers should find out what the strengths are and build on them,” he said.
Rich said the method of research used by the agency had been used all over the world for the past 36 years.
He said that although it was not 100% accurate, the method was sound and results consistent and reflected believable trends in Malaysia.
Explaining the method, Rich said 10,000 people above the age of 15 from various races, areas and backgrounds were chosen for face-to-face interviews yearly.
He said the sampling pool was comparatively higher than regional countries like Thailand and Indonesia where only 9,000 and 8,000 people were interviewed respectively.
“The margin of error is less than 1%. To double the precision, we would need to multiply the sampling pool by four times,” he said.
Commenting on the correlation between a newspaper’s circulation and its readership, Rich said the ratio in the country was neither high nor unusual.
Gnanalingam said there was no need to have more than one media research agency in the country.
However, he said the agency should improve on its methodology and be more transparent.
“Unless it is willing to change, we should look for other alternatives,” he said.
Gnanalingam also said there had been a shift in the purchasing power of the Malays vis-a-vis the Chinese and the Indians since the 1980s.
He said Malays contributed 70% of the estimated RM3mil spent at the KL City Centre daily.
Danyal said newspapers had to earn their readership.
He said newspaper operators should not equate circulation with readership.
“If that is the case, newspaper operators would only need to distribute more of their newspapers free of charge to increase their readership,” he said.
Syed Arabi said that not many media organisations conducted their own research on what their readers wanted. Although expensive, he said the findings would be worthwhile.