COUNTER (Counting Online Usage of Networked Electronic Resources)

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Last Update

  • Updated.jpg 7 March 2017


See also Authority | Bibliometrics | Brandon-Hill and Doody's Lists | Collection development policies in health libraries | EBooks | Print ordering

The COUNTER Code of Practice (see related SUSHI Initiative) is now the most widely adopted standard governing online usage statistics. The internationally-accepted initiative facilitates the recording and reporting of online usage statistics in a consistent and credible manner and will prove to have a major positive impact on both vendors and librarians. The Codes of Practice are refined and upgraded at regular intervals and this is necessarily a major focus for COUNTER. There is also another, growing area of COUNTER activity that is gaining in importance as the body of reliable, COUNTER-compliant usage data increases and as usage statistics feature more prominently in assessments of the value, status and impact of online publications. This area may be termed ‘usage bibliometrics’ and COUNTER is working actively with other organizations on the development of new, usage-based measures of value, status and impact.


Every day libraries and publishers are asked to demonstrate the value of the content they provide through quantitative metrics and assessments. Existing metrics, such as impact factors and tools such as COUNTER and SUSHI, provide extremely valuable metrics and data for librarians. However, as both the forms of content and the way content is used evolves, alternative forms of assessment are needed. Data at the container level, e.g., the journal, is no longer sufficient. Downloading full text in pdf formats are no longer the only (or even primary) way users access and consume content. Citations alone are insufficient to capture new social media interactions and how content is shared. Traditional assessment techniques are being modified, completely new measures are being developed, and both old and new need to be blended in a meaningful way that creates a trusted system. Both the creation of these new or blended metrics and the information the metrics provide are generating new services and products.

What is COUNTER?

  • 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
  • As a non-profit organization, COUNTER works on standards that facilitate the recording and reporting of online usage statistics for libraries in a consistent, credible and compatible way
  • The use of online information resources is growing rapidly in society; it is widely agreed by producers and purchasers that online resources should be measured in a more consistent way
  • Librarians want to understand how the information they buy from various sources is being used; publishers want to know how information products they build are used; to meet these objectives international standards and protocols are needed governing recording and exchange of online usage data


  • In 2002, librarians formed Project COUNTER (Counting Online Usage of Networked Electronic Resources).
  • The first COUNTER Code of Practice, covering online journals and databases, was published in 2003. In 2006, COUNTER's coverage was extended further with the launch of the Code of Practice for online books and reference works.
  • 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 establish value metrics associated with usage where COUNTER statistics play an increasingly important role.
  • COUNTER does more than set standards for usage reports; we are co-operating with a number of organizations to develop a range of usage-related research and services
  • With JISC, COUNTER carried out research on the effects of publisher platforms on usage. We are collaborating with the UK Serials Group on the possible development of a new Journal Usage Factor metric.
  • Reports on these projects can be found at COUNTER
  • COUNTER has 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

What is SUSHI?

SUSHI stands for Standardized Usage Statistics Harvesting Initiative, a standard protocol (ANSI/NISO Z39.93-2003) that can be used by electronic resource management (ERM) systems (and other systems) to automate the transport of COUNTER formatted usage statistics. It can also be used to retrieve non-COUNTER reports that meet the specified requirements for retrieval by SUSHI. See also Standardized Usage Statistics Harvesting Initiative (SUSHI) Protocol (ANSI/NISO Z39.93-2014)

How does SUSHI work?

The SUSHI protocol is a standard client/server web service utilizing a SOAP request/response to retrieve the XML version of a COUNTER or COUNTER-like report.


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