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How much do you know about your academic journal’s readership?

All journals share the core aims of getting relevant research in front of readers and growing their audience over time. Consequently, journal editors must stay on the pulse of how their publication is performing and ensure they’re effectively promoting articles and developing the right special issues and supplementary content to reach as wide an audience as possible and keep readers engaged.

Many journals make determinations about whether they’re reaching the right audience and where to promote content on hunches alone, often resulting in missed opportunities. If you’re in this position, you may not know your journal’s readership as well as you think. To truly assess the performance of your journal and garner insights to grow your readership, having access to basic publishing analytics is a must. Here are 3 analytics areas all journals should focus on and why.

Track article usage and pageviews

The most basic publishing analytics all journals should be tracking are article usage and pageview stats. Among top stats to track are:

  • Total number of website pageviews
  • Individual website pageview counts (see which article, informational, and supplementary content pages readers are engaging with the most)
  • Total number of articles downloaded
  • Individual article download counts

Article usage and pageview stats give journals a window into how readers are engaging with their content. At the most basic level, tracking article download counts will help your journal know which articles readers are engaging with the most. You can use this information to determine which articles you need to promote more, or which articles are likely to generate the most attention in online promotion. You can also look for patterns among popular articles to help shape the aims and scope of your next special issue.

Additionally, your journal can send authors their article download count stats as an added value. Authors can use this information to know which of their articles are garnering the most readers to aid in their individual research promotion efforts and have stats to highlight in professional and funding applications.

In addition to tracking article download counts, journals can get a more granular picture of how visitors are engaging with their content by looking at website pageview stats. Journals can see which article pages are getting the most views and how that compares to the download counts for each article, as well as which supplementary content pages, like blog posts, are getting the most attention. Editors can also track which informational journal pages, such as author guidelines, are getting the most views and if any informational pages appear to have alarmingly low pageviews suggesting visitors aren’t finding them.

Know whether your audience is growing

General pageview and article download counts will help your journal determine which content readers are engaging with the most, but they won’t give you an accurate picture of how your readership is growing. For that, you’ll need to dig a little deeper and look at “unique pageviews.” Whereas general pageviews are a count of all of the times people view a page on your website within their browsing session (if a visitor comes back 10 times in a row that’s 10 pageviews), unique pageviews represent all of the people viewing a page on your website for the first time during a browsing session. Unique pageviews are counted only once per session. Journals can track unique pageviews to get a better sense of how many readers are coming to specific pages of their website for the first time and whether visits to their webpages appear to be growing or diminishing.

See where your readers are coming from

In addition to tracking readership stats, all journals should have basic tracking to determine where readers are coming from. This often starts at the geographic level. Your journal should track which countries your readers are in to determine whether your content is reaching a wide enough audience and if there are particular areas you need to focus on raising awareness within.

In addition to tracking readers by country, your journal should have a sense of how readers are finding your content online. A great way to do this is by tracking referrers. Referrers are the websites that lead readers to your journal website pages. As the name suggests, these websites have links that are “referring” readers to your content. For example, if an online news story links to one of your articles, that story would be a referrer for the article. Tracking referrers will let you know which of your content is being discussed and cited online and where.

Getting started with publishing analytics

If you’re not yet tracking publishing analytics in these core areas, now’s the time to get started! Begin exploring the options available for tracking online publishing analytics and determine which will be the best fit for your journal. For example, teams that have the time and ability to configure their own analytics data might turn to Google Analytics. Google Analytics will take some time to get set up and it has a higher learning curve, so you’ll need to have editors dedicated to learning how to use it. For journals seeking a more ready-made analytics solution that’s tailored to their needs and doesn’t require setup and maintenance, you can also explore publishing analytics specific to academic journals. Scholastica Open Access Publishing software includes a full suite of publishing analytics at no additional cost. You can learn more here.