Although late-night comedy and satirical news programs like The Daily Show have been recognized as important sources of political information, prior research suggests that viewers gain only a limited amount of political knowledge from watching these programs. Drawing from uses and gratification theory and extant research on political information processing, this study examines whether learning from The Daily Show depends on whether viewers orient to the message as news or as entertainment. Results from an online experiment suggest that viewers who orient to a segment from The Daily Show as news or as a mix of news and entertainment invest more mental effort and subsequently learn more than viewers who have a purely entertainment orientation. Further, among viewers with a purely entertainment orientation, providing them with an explicit informational-processing goal increases the amount of mental effort and learning relative to viewers who are given no explicit viewing objective.
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