A poll of 1,055 adults for The News Hub, an open journalism platform, found near-unanimous support for online news to be free: 96% of respondents agreed there should be no charges to access news websites.
At the same time, new data from NRS PADD (National Readership Survey Print And Digital Data) showed that over the 12 months from July 2014 to July 2015 the fastest growing readerships among UK news brands were at those which did not charge for access.
The Daily Mirror's monthly readership figures doubled (+101%) over the period with much of this coming via mobile, while the Guardian was not far behind, with a 98.5% increase, followed by the Telegraph on +92.6%.
The Times, in contrast, registered a +5.5% increase, while sister paper the Sun managed +6.9%. Both of these titles owned by Rupert Murdoch's News UK operate paywalls.
More generally, reported Newsworks, the data showed that newsbrands reached nearly 20m people across the UK every day (38%), 34m people (66%) each week and just under 40m people (76%) each month across print and PC.
Adding in estimates for mobile lifted the monthly figure to 46m, or around nine in ten (89%) of the potential newsreading population.
Another indication of how the news industry is changing came in the finding that 35.3m people (68%) are still reading newspapers on a monthly basis, but newsbrands reach 36.3m people (70%) across digital platforms alone every month.
Newsbrands remain an excellent medium for reaching a high-income audience, Newsorks noted, with 94% of ABC1s reading a newsbrand each month and 97% of chief income earners with over £70,000 of net annual income. Newsbrands also reach 32m main shoppers (89%) every month.
Young people were the biggest consumers of newsbrands across all platforms with 96% of 15-24 year olds accessing newsbrands each month.
Advertising spend on digital newsbrands reached a record-high £387m last year, according to the AA/Warc Expenditure Report. Digital ad revenues for newsbrands are expected to top half a billion pounds next year.
Data sourced from BusinessWire, Newsworks; additional content by Warc staff