Web usage metrics have become increasingly popular. The potential for immediate data on an article has been really valuable to journal editors.
The problem is ensuring everyone uses the same system. Just as different citation databases report on different citation numbers, so can different usage systems report different usage.
For this reason, the international organization COUNTER (Counting Online Usage of Networked Electronic Resources) has established a range of standards and codes of practice for organizations reporting usage data.
Like many publishers, Wiley regularly captures usage of all traffic on the Wiley Online Library , following the rules specified by COUNTER. Usage data are only delivered in aggregate form, respecting end user privacy.
As with citation metrics, you need to be aware of the factors that can influence the rate of download.
Online-only metrics can be affected by the variation in internet access across the world. Journals that target geographical locations with poor levels of internet access can therefore report "lower" usage.
Some journals are available on multiple platforms, not all of which are COUNTER-compliant.
Self-usage and promotional usage affect usage metrics. It's similar to the way that self-citation can distort citation metrics.
This is a real challenge to usage systems. How do you differentiate between genuine academics accessing research, and usage by automated robots and data-miners? Robust systems must be in place to exclude them from usage reports.
Find out more about usage statistics on the COUNTER website.