Russ Walden goes on-line to get the business information he needs -- fast. As president of a $30-million real estate company, Atlanta-based Ridgewood Properties, Walden uses such on-line services as CompuServe and Dow Jones News/Retrieval heavily. Each day, he logs on, generally to check news headlines or stories about companies Ridgewood Properties is tracking. Some months ago Ridgewood discovered a potential acquisition opportunity -- and quickly did extensive on-line research on the target.

Walden isn't unusual. When the Executive Committee (TEC), an organization of small-company CEOs, surveyed its membership about on-line services last May, business research was by far the most popular attraction. Only 15% of the CEOs who used on-line services took part in forum discussions to get business ideas.

If you haven't gone on-line yet, take heart. TEC's survey showed that, despite the information-superhighway hype, only 53% of CEOs had ever been on-line -- and one-fifth of those were just starting out. The Internet was unknown territory for most respondents: a mere 8% of TEC's members (and 16% of the on-line users) had ever tried it. (The Internet is cumbersome for business research, says Walden.) CEOs are not making enormous investments in on-line services, either: 43% were spending less than $25 a month for business use.

Do you personally use a computer on a regular basis?
Yes 73% No 27%

Have you ever used, or do you now use, any on-line service?
Yes 53% No 47%

How long have you been using one or more on-line services?
Three or four years 32%

One or two years 24%

Just started using recently 23%

More than five years 21%

For what purposes have you used these services?
Business research 72%

Personal information 54%

Electronic mail 47%

Travel plans 32%

Transferring files 23%

Investments 22%

Government updates 9%

If you use a service, which ones do you use?
CompuServe 58%

Prodigy 51%

America Online 25%

Internet 16%

Dow Jones News/Retrieval 9%

Lexis/Nexis 8%

Dialog 7%

Genie 3%

Delphi 1%

Source: May 1994 survey of 226 members of the Executive Committee (TEC), an international organization of CEOs, based in San Diego. TEC members' companies have a median sales of $10 million and a median of 65 employees.