News readership is shifting to the Internet because of accessibility, inexpensive technology, and free content. The prevalence of news on the Web provides opportunities for people to come across news in an incidental way as a byproduct of their online activities.
This paper presents findings related to incidental exposure to online news from a study on information behavior of news readers. Erdelez's (2004) Information Encountering model guided the mixed method study, which consisted of two phases. The first phase involved the analysis of a web survey with 148 participants recruited through the website of a local newspaper. Respondents who demonstrated an awareness of their incidental exposure to online news were selected for the second phase. In the second, qualitative phase, the researcher interviewed 20 respondents using critical incident, explication interview, and think-aloud techniques. This paper presents findings from the second phase focusing on four main areas: the respondents' perception of incidental exposure to online news, the frequency of these experiences, the characteristics of the environment where they take place, and the respondents' feelings associated with this behavior. The study indicates that incidental exposure to online news is becoming a major way for some respondents to get informed about news events. Respondents' perceptions of incidental exposure to online news are grouped into three contexts: news reading, non-news reading, and Internet in general. The majority of respondents stated that they have positive feelings about incidental exposure to online news.