New research from the University of Missouri finds that Internet users are increasingly less likely to seek out news stories online, but more often read the news serendipitously.
The research contends that Internet users often do not make the conscious decision to read news online, but they come across news when they are searching for other information or doing non-news related activities on the Internet, such as shopping or visiting social networking sites.
Researcher Borchuluun Yadamsuren surveyed nearly 150 respondents with further interviews of 20 of those respondents to understand their incidental exposure to online news. She found that respondents experience exposure to online news in three different contexts: They come across interesting news stories while they visit online news sites; they see news stories while doing non-news related activities such as checking email and visiting Facebook and other social networking sites; and they stumble upon “unusual,” “weird,” “interesting,” “bizarre,” “unexpected,” “outrageous” or “off-the-wall” news stories while doing Internet searches for other topics.
“Incidental exposure to online news is becoming a major way for many people to receive information about news events,” Yadamsuren said. “However, many people don’t realize how their news reading behavior is shifting to more serendipitous discovery.”
The researcher believes that the changing ways in which people discover news are also impacting what is perceived to be reliable reporting as many people now hold a much broader perception of news that goes beyond what is reported by professional journalists.