Today, people are increasingly exposed to news on various channels without actively seeking it. However, less is known about the link between the so-called incidental news exposure (INE) and actual news consumption. Using a two-wave panel data set from 18 countries around the world, we study the so-far under researched relation between INE and news consumption across various platforms over time. In doing so, we control for key micro-level variables such as news use, political interest and trust in media as well as macro-level variables, including internet connectivity, GDP, press freedom and literacy rate. The analyses yield an optimistic picture, showing that INE plays a bridging function across countries, leading to actual news consumption on traditional, online and social media platforms. However, trust in news and political interest do not seem to play key moderating roles. Instead, individual analyses per country imply that the link between INE and actual news use is more apparent for online and social media news platforms, and particularly in countries where general social media usage has been reported to be considerably high (e.g. Brazil, Philippines, Taiwan, UK and USA).
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