Beyond positive or negative: Understanding the phenomenology, typologies and impact of incidental news exposure on citizens' daily lives Articles uri icon

publication date

  • October 2020

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1461-4448

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1461-7315


  • The ubiquitous nature of online news, especially in social media, increasingly exposes readers to news even when they are not seeking it. Based on 50 semi-structured interviews with Spanish incidental news consumers, we inductively explore the effects of incidental news consumption and problematize the phenomenology of encountering news passively on social media. Our results first question previous quantitative analysis on the potential positive effects of incidental news exposure, evidencing its minimal or null effects on how citizens make sense of, and are informed about, public affairs and politics. Second, our findings indicate that citizens appraisals of incidental news content varies according to the producers involved, the topics addressed and the interest triggered. Our study contributes to current discussions of incidental news exposure, arguing that both quantitative and qualitative studies should consider the direct and indirect impact of structural, cognitive and situational variables to holistically account for incidental news effects.


  • incidental news exposure; media effects; news consumption; political knowledge; qualitative analysis; social media