SlimKim - 2:26 pm on May 8, 2010 (gmt 0)
You did a nice job of describing the conditions / landscape and overall picture.
Unfortunately, regardless if you are in a high or low value vertical, it will be difficult to attract direct advertisers at decent rates because of your size. Most don't want to bother with smaller reach.
I think the answer might be found in the paragraph you began with "Possibility"
And i would suggest you consider launching your own network for your vertical and plan to do all the things right - that you feel are lacking.
If you go that route, let us know how you structure and what you experience.
By the way, what vertical are you in and what cpm do you think is reasonable in todays markets.
Hope it helps