Stop it, already! Enough with mis-use of ‘hits’!

By Steve Outing

Increasingly of late, I’m seeing writers use the term “hits” when talking about webpage usage. I’ve lost count of how often this has assaulted my ex-copy editor eyes, but it happened again in this story. An excerpt:

“Thousands of Seattlites will miss their morning ‘fish wrapper.’ But as other newspapers saw fewer web ‘hits’ after the November election, the P-I website has climbed close to the three million mark.”

Ugh. As an Internet publishing veteran, I have to point out to the growing horde of misinformed writers that a “page-view” is the word they’re looking for. It indicates that a web user has seen a particular webpage. If the P-I website only got three million hits (the writer doesn’t says if that’s per day, but I assume so), that’s pretty poor because it represents far, far fewer page-views.

What’s a “hit”? I’ll let Wikipedia explain:

“A hit is a request to a web server for a file (web page, image, JavaScript, Cascading Style Sheet, etc.). When a web page is uploaded from a server the number of ‘hits’ or ‘page hits’ is equal to the number of files requested. Therefore, one page load does not always equal one hit because often pages are made up of other images and other files which stack up the number of hits counted. Because one page load does not equal one hit it is an inaccurate measure of a website’s popularity or web traffic. A more accurate measure of web traffic is how many page views a web site has. Hits are useful when evaluating the requirements of your server, depending on the number and size of files which need to be transferred for one request. Servers should be tested to make sure they meet throughput targets (i.e. they should be capable of processing a certain amount of ‘hits’ per second).”

Sorry for nitpicking, but doing time as a copy editor at any time of your career will make you this way. :)

Author: Steve Outing Steve Outing is a Boulder, Colorado-based media futurist, digital-news innovator, consultant, journalist, and educator. ... Need assistance with media-company future strategy? Get in touch with Steve!

4 Responses to "Stop it, already! Enough with mis-use of ‘hits’!"

  1. Mark Potts
    Mark Potts 8 years ago .Reply

    Spot on, Steve. I wrote a note to a managing editor of a major paper about this about five years ago. I still see the mistake all the time. It’s not helped by the fact that at least one of the major Web stat packages makes exactly the same mistake in its reports. Grrrr.

  2. David Hakala, Denver, CO
    David Hakala, Denver, CO 8 years ago .Reply

    “Gay” used to mean “happy”, Steve. Get with the times.

  3. Patrick Thornton
    Patrick Thornton 8 years ago .Reply


    I couldn’t agree more. Nothing proves better ones glibness of the Web than when they use hit instead of page view. Hit is a real term, and as you pointed out, it means something else.

    Even page views don’t tell me that much without knowing visitors, uniques and time spent. A lot newspapers have built their sites to essentially game the system. They only put a few hundred words on a page and force a user to click to another page to read more of the story.

    Advertisers aren’t that stupid.

    And users hate this.


    It’s not about getting with the times. It’s about misusing one term for another. Both have relevant uses.

  4. Stu Lowndes
    Stu Lowndes 8 years ago .Reply


    Nitpickin’ again, I see …

    Although one of the greatest nitpickers was the late Paul (Dodo) McKenna Davis of The Montreal Star, he was also one of the greatest copy editors I have ever had the pleasure to work with in my career.

    Meanwhile, don’t get your Strunk and White into an uproar against these cubs who pimp the language in the world’s second-oldest profession, and simply tweak your outdated AP style book to accept a scrolling marquee of dot-com ignorance.

    May I also remind you of the current and popular meaning of “hacker?”

    This word was once used with some compassion to describe a particular trait of certain gifted individuals who could expose the many secrets of hardware and software. Today, it has become a much-maligned definition twisted and tortured by spin-doctors who dwell beneath a bridge and in the corporate darkness of angels and demons.

    A “page-view,” as described, is simply not a connective accepted by Johnny Mnemonic and the virtual regiment of editorial bladerunners on the Web. It just ain’t sexy, sweetheart, and only used, or so it seems, by the clowns of commerce in marketing and advertising.

    But, then again, (we) had created this ambiguous conundrum in our own industry, didn’t we?

    Define, if you will, the circulation figures of The Daily Rag?

Leave your comment