The Pew Internet Project recently released survey results on the free-to-paid content front. Of the 233 Americans they reached in a telephoned survey who said they had been asked to pay for access to a Web site that was previously free, 12% anted up and paid for it.
You'll note that other media (noteably Reuters) who covered this news focused on the negative side -- the 88% of consumers who didn't pay (yet.) However, you can take it from me, this news is HAPPY DANCE TIME. The average conversion numbers we've been hearing from previously free online publishers have been in the range of .05%-10%. This is already higher than the average sales figures for content offers sent through direct mail (such as a direct mail offer for a magazine) that get from .02-2% generally, depending on pricing, demographics, marketing prowess, etc.
I'd also like to make a point - yet again - that you're probably bored of hearing from me, because I tend to hammer it in. Online paid content marketing is in its INFANCY. And in general, the copywriting skills, offer tests, pricing tests and all-around marketing savvy I've seen exhibited by the average econtent marketer have not come up to par with their offline peers.
(Perhaps partly because there are far fewer proven marketing campaigns to steal ideas from.)
So, when Pew says 12% of 233 people they talked to have already paid for content online that used to be free, you should see this as the beginning of a real success story.
(You can download your own PDF of the 6-page report here: