An important element of news delivery on the World Wide Web today is the near ubiquity of breaking news headlines. What used to be called search engines (e.g., Yahoo! and Lycos) are now "portals" or "hubs," popular services that use news, weather, and other content features to extend the time users spend on the sites. Traditional models of news dissemination in the mass media often assume some level of intention behind most news exposure. The prevalence of news on the disparate corners of the Web provides opportunities for people to encounter current affairs information in an incidental fashion, a byproduct of their other online activities. This study uses survey data from 1996 and 1998 to test whether accidental exposure to news on the Web is positively associated with awareness of current affairs information. The results indicate that incidental online news exposure was unrelated to knowledge in 1996 but acted as a positive predictor in 1998.
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