COUNTER - Counting Online Usage of NeTworked Electronic Resources


Last updated: February 2013

Launched in March 2002, COUNTER (Counting Online Usage of Networked Electronic Resources) is an international initiative serving librarians, publishers and intermediaries by setting standards that facilitate the recording and reporting of online usage statistics in a consistent, credible and compatible way. The first COUNTER Code of Practice, covering online journals and databases, was published in 2003. COUNTER.s coverage was extended further with the launch of the Code of Practice for online books and reference works in 2006. The body of COUNTER compliant usage statistics has steadily grown as more and more vendors have adopted the COUNTER Codes of Practice. This has contributed to the new discipline of usage bibliometrics and a great deal of work is underway to try to establish .value metrics. associated with usage, in which the COUNTER compliant statistics play an increasingly important role..

COUNTER does more than just set the standards for usage reports; we are co-operating with a number of organizations to develop a range of usage-related research and services.  In 2006 COUNTER carried out research, sponsored by JISC (the UK Joint Information Systems Committee) on the effects of publisher platforms on usage and we are currently collaborating with the UK Serials Group on the possible development of a new Journal Usage Factor metric. Summary reports on both these projects can be found on the COUNTER website at  . COUNTER has also worked with NISO on SUSHI (Standardised Usage Harvesting Initiative) to develop a protocol to facilitate the automated harvesting and consolidation of usage statistics from different vendors. This protocol may be found on the NISO website at

COUNTER brings the following benefits to librarians, publishers and intermediaries:

Librarians are able to compare usage statistics from different vendors; derive useful metrics such as cost-per-use; make better-informed purchasing decisions; plan infrastructure more effectively.

Publishers and intermediaries are able to: provide data to customers in a format they want; compare the relative usage of different delivery channels; aggregate data for customers using multiple delivery channels; learn more about genuine usage patterns.

Future objectives

While COUNTER has greatly improved the reliability and usability of online vendor usage statistics, there is still much for us to do, not only to help vendors further improve their usage reports and to help librarians to make sense of them, but also to keep the COUNTER codes up to date with changes in the online delivery of information. Our future objectives fall into three broad categories. First, to improve further the reliability of the core COUNTER data and extend scope of the Code of Practice beyond journals, databases and books. Second, to continue to increase the number of COUNTER compliant vendors. Third, to work with other industry organizations to facilitate the implementation of COUNTER and develop metrics based on the COUNTER data that are of practical value to both librarians and vendors. 

Other initiatives on usage statistics

COUNTER has been built on, and liaises with, a number of important, ongoing industry initiatives that have done much valuable work to define customer requirements for usage statistics from vendors. Most notable in this context are:

ARL New Measures Initiative
The ARL Association of Research Libraries) New Measures Initiative has been set up in response to the following two needs: increasing demand for libraries to demonstrate outcomes/impacts in areas important to the institution, and increasing pressure to maximise use of resources.

Of particular interest is the work associated with the E-metrics portion of this initiative, which is an effort to explore the feasibility of defining and collecting data on the use and value of electronic resources.

NISO is the National Information Standards Organization of the United States. COUNTER has worked with NISO on SUSHI (Standardized Usage Harvesting Initiative) to develop a protocol to facilitate the automated harvesting and consolidation of usage statistics from different vendors. This protocol is now available and may be found on the NISO/SUSHI website above.

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