Do news actually "find me"? Using digital behavioral data to study the news-finds-me phenomenon

Research on news exposure has shown that, while political knowledge and interest largely determine the degree of active engagement with online news, some people are generally less willing to invest into actively staying informed. Instead, these people report to pursue a passive mode of relying on specific sources, such as social media, based on the belief that "news finds me" (NFM). Notably, the three dimensions of NFM—feeling informed, relying on peers, and not actively seeking news—combine intentions and perceptions related to news use. Understanding NFM perceptions, hence, requires an analytical distinction between active and passive modes of news use as well as reliable measures of (different types of) news exposure. We contribute to this field by combining a survey, tracked web-browsing data, and tracked Facebook data to investigate the relationship between NFM perceptions and exposure to online news, also taking into account political knowledge and interest as traditional predictors of active news use. Our results show that both political knowledge and interest are associated with more news exposure via web browsers and that political knowledge—but not political interest—is also associated with more news in people’s Facebook feeds. Compared to the NFM dimensions, political knowledge and interest are stronger predictors of online news exposure in our study. Taken together, the novel combination of Facebook and web tracking data provides evidence that online news exposure is shaped by a confluence of traditional factors and more diffuse interpersonal processes.

Haim, M., Breuer, J., & Stier, S. (2021). Do news actually "find me"? Using digital behavioral data to study the news-finds-me phenomenon. Social Media + Society, 7(3). (content_copy)

This paper is available with open access. That means, you can just read/download it here.