Mick O'Leary has been using and writing about online information for over 15 years. He is the director of the library at Frederick, Maryland, and a principal in The Data Brokers, an information consultancy. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
The service contains key profile and forcast data for 195 countries
The Economist Group of publications and databases is esteemed for the quality of its economics and political analysis. The flagship is The Economist magazine, the model of the low-circulation/high-influence current affairs journal. The group publishes several other magazines that are influential in their respective spheres of business, commerce, and politics, including the Journal of Commerce, Traffic World, CFO, and Roll Call.
Heavy-duty analysis and research are carried out by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), which publishes detailed, authoritative reports on 200 countries. These cover each nation's politics, economy, demographics, finance, risk prospects, and outlook. The EIU also publishes reports and forecasts on general management trends and selected industries, especially in trade and transportation.
The EIU distributes all of this through an extensive series of journals, print subscription series, and individual research reports. Different combinations of EIU publications are available on several leading online database and news services. In 1997, EIU inaugurated its own, Web-based service with its complete product line (http://www.eiu.com).
Getting Right to the Point
For all of its deserved eminence, the large, sprawling EIU collection can be intimidating in its complexity and cost. Whether in print or online, it is a complicated and expensive mix of textual and statistical background reports, data compilations, briefings, risk evaluations, and forecasts. The timeliness of most EIU products is also an issue these days. EIU's print and online publications are typically updated quarterly or monthly, which, in today's politico-economic environment, is positively archaic.
Both objections are squarely addressed by ViewsWire, a joint-reference book/briefing service/newswire that gathers the best of EIU into a single, concise database. ViewsWire contains key profile and forecast data, along with up-to-date reporting and analysis, for countries, regions, and industries worldwide. ViewsWire extracts the most widely needed information from throughout the entire EIU product line, as well as from other Economist Group publications and a few other first-rate sources like the Financial Times. ViewsWire's accelerated publishing schedule enables its analysis to follow events by a few days instead of months. It is consistently organized and integrated, making it easy to move from demographic summaries to population growth forecasts to interpretations of the latest election.
All Countries Great and Small
ViewsWire covers 195 countries, from the largest global powers down to tiny states like Aruba, Moldavia, and Djibouti. The major commercial nations rightly receive most of the coverage, but even the smallest countries have summary profiles and a set of forecasts. Dozens of countries of economic significance have an extensive range of political and economic information, arranged in three broad categories:Background, Forecasts, and Briefings.
ViewsWire's Background departments present a statistical and narrative profile of the country's politics, demographics, economics, finance, and commercial structure. Separate sections are devoted to overviews of the country's regulatory environment for foreign exchange, taxation, and trade.
This information is condensed from full-size EIU country reports, presenting a concise distillation of the key facts and figures. Much of it is a generic commodity, available elsewhere in any number of almanacs, reference books, and Web sites. Nevertheless, it is convenient to have it close at hand, especially to provide context for the information in the Forecasts and Briefings categories.
ViewsWire's Forecasts draw upon proprietary EIU data and other sources to project economic and political developments from 3 months to 5 years ahead. Five-year forecasts predict dozens of macroeconomic indicators for national income, trade, finance, prices, employment, etc. Narrative reports discuss the shorter-term outlook for each country's domestic politics, foreign affairs, fiscal policy, inflation, productivity, and exchange rates.
Potential business hazards in dozens of countries are highlighted in Risk Reports. These discuss looming political and economic instabilities that might jeopardize foreign investment and business ventures.
Meanings, Not Just Facts
ViewsWire's Background and Forecast data are important, and it is convenient to have them immediately available, but there's nothing really new here; it's basically in formation from EIU print publications that has been extracted and put into a Web site. The Briefings are something new and different; they apply EIU's insightful analysis to the world's significant political and economic developments, but with the timeliness of a newswire instead of the plodding pace of a monthly print subscription service.
Briefings are short, one- to three-page reports that concentrate on analysis and interpretation, rather than just conveying the facts of the story. They live up to EIU's reputation for insightful, cogent analysis. They explain the background and dynamics of the topic, toss in a few key statistics, and give a sense of the outlook, all within a concise, tightly written article.
A few hundred Briefings are added daily, covering recent developments in politics, economics, business, and commerce, with an emphasis on the world's major economies. There are, for example, usually a few dozen Briefings daily on U.S. developments, but tiny countries may go weeks or months with none.
The Briefings are thorough at covering key political and economic events, but they also deal with trade, company, industry, and general business news and trends. Treatment of companies and industries is much more selective than for politics or commerce; ViewsWire has a decided emphasis on companies and news in the transportation industries, reflecting the strong interest in these industries by several other EIU publications and databases. ViewsWire can be counted upon to comment on most major political and economics events, but don't turn to it as an industry reporter unless you're in the transportation business.
The ViewsWire Niche
ViewsWire was introduced in 1998, and is available on its own Web site or through several host services. At the ViewsWire site (http://www.viewswire.com), the database can be browsed by country, topic, or report type, or searched using pull-down menus, Boolean and proximity connectors, nesting, truncation, date limiting, phrase searching, and saved searches. Both browsing and searching interfaces are simple, uncluttered, and almost immediately intuitive.
ViewsWire is an enterprise market product, with flat-rate pricing based upon the number of users. The annual cost for a single user is $7,500, but the per-user cost drops significantly with larger numbers; for 10 users it is $12,750, and for 100 it is $25,000. Versions of the database are also available on Bloomberg, DIALOG, FT Discovery, LEXIS-NEXIS, MarkIntel, NewsEDGF, and Reuters Business Briefing.
Political, business, and economic news is exhaustively and overwhelmingly supplied all over the Web and on dozens of proprietary services. Nevertheless, ViewsWire occupies its own distinctive and valuable niche. The others typically concentrate on presenting large quantities of facts; ViewsWire reverses this formula by offering concise bundles of key stats and cogent analyses. It doesn't replace your favorite newspapers, journals, and news services--it just helps you make more sense of what you find in them.
Current affairs analysis service from the respected Economist Intelligence Unit. Provides key stats and immediate analysis of significant political, economic, and business developments worldwide. Stands out from most other news sources for quality of interpretation, and from other EIU products for timeliness.
Economist Intelligence Unit (U.S. office), The Economist Building, 111 West 57th Street, New York 10019, 212/544-0600; http://www.viewswire.com.