Turning paper into gold measuring doctors’ readership in a cost conscious market

The National Medical Readership Survey (NMRS) is a study of doctors’ reading habits in the UK, sponsored by an industry
committee of interested parties – the Joint Industry Committee of Medical Advertisers for Readership Surveys (JICMARS). The
survey provides data that are used to plan and trade advertising space in medical journals which are distributed, largely free of charge, to doctors in general practice (GPs). Since the survey’s inception in the late 1970s, data had been collected via face-to-face interviews amongst a pre-selected random sample of the GP population. However, the pharmaceutical advertising market has been under significant pressure in recent
years due to changes in government policy reducing GPs’ freedom to prescribe branded drugs. Between 1999 and 2006 the
number of advertising pages in journals approximately halved and this, coupled with increasing survey costs as response rates
gradually declined, meant that the study in its original form had become unviably expensive. Consequently, JICMARS was forced to consider alternative, lower cost methodologies, but critically it had to retain the Gold Standard status and unqualified industry acceptance of the survey in the marketplace. Prior to the formation of JICMARS publishers conducted their own research of varying quality resulting in a free-for-all of readership claims and counter claims.
Loss of the industry currency could have heralded a return to this uncertainty and potentially damaged the advertising market


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