Free is a small word with big connotations. Free means freely available, free to choose, free of monetary cost or commitment. Free often means throwaway, low value, nasty or disposable.
Free stuff has generally two strategies behind it. The first is up-selling. Buy two, get one free. Free parking when you purchase $10 of goods in-store. Sign up to our movie postal service now, get the first month free. The second is as an advertising conduit. Television, radio and Google all work on the basis of free content delivering advert dollars.
And yet free is increasingly associated with unlimited supply. File sharing has made music effectively free both directly through piracy and - as a response to piracy - indirectly through Napster, Last.fm and Spotify. Several of the major entertainment media companies have attempted to directly engage with Free as a model, from Hulu and BBC iPlayer to on-line only newspapers and RSS. Many of them are finding it tough going as the advertising market has become depressed in the recession.