Benefits of Subscription: Benefits of Free Forums:
I think a careful blend of free forums and subscription content would work best. Sounds like there is more than enough content to support both models.
The number of banner ads necessary to pull revenue worthy of the "Best of Brett" would be astronomical. There is a reason you don't see the big research houses supporting their reports w/ banner ads. More subscribers = more revenue = more time & resources = more "really good stuff"
The dangers of going completely towards a "pay model" at the expense of the "free model" can be summed up in one word -- Inktomi. From a personal perspective, I shudder to think of the forums losing even one valued member due to cost considerations (and the worldly nature of WmW means a wide array of economic realities). From an economic perspective, having free forums makes good business sense. The subscription model would ultimately benefit from a continued influx of new members. Plus, there would be the option to run additional house ads for the subscription service in the event of unfavorable ad sales.
Benefits of Subscription:
Benefits of Free Forums: