Nielsen put out an interesting report a couple of months ago (thanks to The Advertising Show’s recent interview with Nielsen’s Nic Covey for the tip) that highlighted the results of a study where they asked 27,000 people in 52 countries what they thought about paying for content on the Internet.

To nobody’s surprise, the overwhelming response was, “We don’t want to.” About 85 percent of people surveyed said they wanted all content on the web to be free.

But when they were asked whether they’d be willing to pay for specific types of content, the respondents changed their tune. As it turns out, nearly 60 percent said they’d be willing to pay for theatrical movies online; in fact, about 12 percent already had.

Ditto for music and games. And, to some degree, “professionally produced video” and online magazines. From there, the numbers of people who say they’d consider paying for other kinds of content—newspapers, podcasts, blogs, radio, social communities, consumer-generated video, et al—fall off precipitously.

There are lots of interesting takeaways from this study. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • People will pay for online content. In general, they’ll pay for the things they’re already used to paying for via other delivery systems: movies, music, and games.
  • People can tell the difference between professional content and amateur content.  Regardless of whether or not you’re asking people to pay for content, they can tell the difference between content they might pay for and content they definitely would not pay for.
  • People believe that if they pay for content, they should have the right to copy and share it with others.
  • In general, people accept advertising as the cost of getting free content. About half of respondents from around the world would be willing to accept more advertising on the Internet to support the cost of content.

How valuable is your content? If you had to start charging visitors for your content today, would they come back tomorrow? Would visitors put up with advertising on your site to consume your content? If not, what makes you think they’re taking you seriously now?