Reading news online can lead to a “serendipitous discovery” of news items that would otherwise go unnoticed, according to a study of the University of Missouri School of Journalism.
The research says that people who are doing unrelated things, like shopping or checking email online, unintentionally come across links for new items that they would otherwise not have noticed.
The discovery is used as a reason why newspapers should advertise for their articles on vastly differing content sites for accidental readers to be found.
I’m not so sure if that is such a good thing. While it may be good for online media to find new readers, it doesn’t serve to expose people to a wider array of knowledge.
Looking at my own news consumption, I find myself more drawn to pithy headlines about celebrity news and pragmatic How-To-articles, rather than being exposed to unexpected background information the way traditional newspapers often do.
I have to make a conscious effort not to fall into the trap of wanting to click on yet another article about the benefits of antioxidants (which I am already quite aware of), or what sexy dress actress XYZ was showing off that day.
I miss being pointed towards a news item in an actual paper newspaper that I wouldn’t have picked by myself, but found stimulating when I read it. Online, there’s so many choices that I quickly skip over the less catchy headlines, at the price of missing out on the potentially educational effect of a story that isn’t quite as sexy at first sight.
Maybe I should go back to the good old newspaper subscription. I’m thinking about it.