Mapping the Mobile DNA of News. Understanding Incidental and Serendipitous Mobile News Consumption

Kristin Van Damme, Marijn Martens, Sarah Van Leuven, Mariek Vanden Abeele, Lieven De Marez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Scholarly work argues that mobile technology facilitates serendipitous news consumption. This article examines how users understand serendipity in mobile news consumption and whether this leads to news diversity. Technology-mediated news encounters are argued to reduce news diversity, yet these theoretical filter bubbles cannot be found empirically. This paper investigates whether this might be explained by incidental news use. A mixed methods study (n = 20) was set-up, which involved interviews, on-device loggings and experience sampling data. Results show that incidental news differs in the level of user agency, ranging from responding to an unsolicited recommendation or alert; via monitoring, facilitated by a previous action (e.g. activated news notifications); to browsing or stumbling upon unexpected topics during news use. Incidental encounters become serendipitous when they provide new information or insights and consequently stick in one’s mind. Based on our findings, we further develop a conceptual model for (mobile) incidental news, which shows the interplay of news recommendations by peers, algorithms, and editors. Editorial recommendations result in topic diversity. Both peer and algorithmic recommendations lead to brand diversity, yet this remains unnoticed to audiences. Peer recommendations mostly do not lead to topic or viewpoint diversity, but are perceived as valuable when they do.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-68
Number of pages20
JournalDigital Journalism
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2020


  • Incidental news
  • MobileDNA
  • mixed methods research
  • mobile news
  • news consumption
  • news diversity
  • serendipity
  • social recommendations


Dive into the research topics of 'Mapping the Mobile DNA of News. Understanding Incidental and Serendipitous Mobile News Consumption'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this