Social media is, through a couple of very big players, clearly established as a mass media environment, even though by nature a lot of the available content is filtered according to a user’s desires and ‘aided’ by algorithms and other personalisation elements. News is shared on social media by both publisher and one’s connections, although there is an element of selective exposure. This article seeks to examine the potential for ‘incidental exposure’ to news, particularly by those who do not set out to use the service to explicitly ‘follow’ the news.

This is an interesting and well-motivated article, examining three social media properties in Italy, Australia, UK and the US, and utilising gathered data from the comprehensive 2015 Reuters Institute Digital News Report survey. Limitations are clearly stated but are less likely to influence these findings, it is argued.

The findings were to be partially expected on one hand, with there being a high degree of incidental exposure to news, particularly amongst the younger demographic and those who profess a low interest in news.  Here any incidental exposure can be powerful as these users are not swamped with news and may be more reactive and receptive to its messaging. Yet on the other hand, a surprise existed as such findings were stronger for users of YouTube (and Twitter, but that can be a news junkie’s paradise) and less for Facebook. The authors note that a comprehensive account of how these social media networks are used is lacking, whilst noting that they have different feature sets and usage patterns. Nonetheless, this need not devalue the research.

The introduction and literature review is quite compact but of an informative, high-standard. There is a clear use of language throughout that makes this article accessible to a wider audience than many academic papers manage. The data is analysed in detail, but provided in a way that you can get a ‘headline view’ or dive in deep should you so desire. A thoughtful, but important, difference. The discussion is engaging and can inspire future allied research into this rich vein.

Fletcher, R. and Nielsen, R.K., 2017. Are people incidentally exposed to news on social media? A comparative analysis. New Media & Society. 10.1177/1461444817724170DOI:

A post-publication review of this article that appears on Publons.