THE Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) is entering the electronic publishing arena on the back of a big survey that suggests the volume of business information received electronically will double in the next two years. 'The survey was sent to 4,000 EIU clients worldwide, and generated over 400 responses,' Adam Aston, electronic publishing agent for EIU Asia, said. The research has found that 24 per cent of critical, decision-forming information is received by executives in electronic form. Those who responded expect substantial growth in all categories - compact disc-read-only memory (CD-ROM), on-line, direct local-area network (LAN) or wide-area network (WAN) feeds, fax delivery and microform. The creation of a new division, EIU Electronic Publishing, followed as a natural consequence of the survey findings. It will market the company's country, regional, industry and management information across all electronic formats. To compete in the US$3.5 billion on-line market, a new service, EIU Direct, has been set up with SandPoint, a systems integrator using Hoover software, to run on IBM-compatible personal computers with Lotus Notes. The system allows clients to create their own 'menu' of subject areas, then searches through 15 regularly updated EIU reports and automatically transfers articles covering selected topics to clients' files. The service will also make EIU publications more widely available through third-party sources, such as FT Profile, MAID, Dialog and Mead Data Central, plus customised country monitoring services delivered via Reuter Business Briefing, Global Report and Bloomberg. In the $500 million CD-ROM business information market, EIU recently released a five-disc set of regional business intelligence products through Dialog OnDisc, while the country reports, newsletters and forecasts will be produced on discs with SilverPlatter Information. CD-ROM systems offer superb search possibilities and can be built into powerful archive-based research tools. However, forecasting is a far less precise science. Even so, the EIU is also developing a subscription-based 'enhanced consulting service' to be called VIEWSWIRE. With a potential launch date as early as next year, this is intended to provide detailed forecasts tailored to each client's specific requirements. Revision and updating would be carried out at intervals of between one and five days. 'The VIEWSWIRE service is still in the planning stages, but the objective is to create a customer-needs driven, research and prediction base where we could weave in new numbers fast,' Mr Aston, said. Unlike Time magazine, the service would not be interactive - allowing subscribers to question the paper's editors and senior writers on-line - because 'our research has found that customers are not actually over-keen on the interactive capacity', Mr Aston said. Marketing of the new services had been kept deliberately low-key, he said. 'It's a new project and we haven't given it any pre-publicity in this region, although we did a little in the US and Europe,' he said. 'We will have a direct marketing push here, mailing to existing EIU subscribers, and follow that with a client creation effort using the electronic route.'