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Majority of online readers lack a favourite site, says study

Only 35 per cent of those reading internet news have a preferred site, according to Pew

The survey comes as a blow to newspapers moving to charge for their online content. The research, part of the Pew Internet and American Life Project, showed that 82 per cent of those loyal to a site said they would go elsewhere to find their news if asked to pay.

Although 65 per cent of loyal readers visit their favourite site once a day, the drop-off that would be caused by pay walls such as the one planned by the New York Times for January 2011, following the lead of the Financial Times, would prove costly, according to Pew.

"Thus, if the news industry is going to make headway with pay-walls, they are going to have to break through what for now appears to be continuing reluctance, even among its most avid consumers," the report concluded.