@diberry, I have notices the same thing. People seem to be asking questions and I think that it is the way google want to go. They said in an interview that they want to give people ansqwers since that is what people mostly go to google to look for, answers.
Someone mentioned splitting up a site in one free and one pay site (buy) and I think the idea is not bad since I think google in first place split up sites in 2 groups, one group is where you can buy things and the other one is for information.
I have totally redone my site and it didn't hurt me but it didn't really help either, as far as I can see so I am guessing that the old site wasn't too bad, even with duplicate and other issues and the new one in HTML5 with semantics didn't make the cut. Maybe it is a site penalty of some sort or they just can't figure out where it is supposed to be in the search.
Right now Google "only" accounts for 40% of my traffic and the other SE's take up the rest (of course).
When it comes to forcing people to use Adwords I think they do, but not the way you might think of it. If I see that my hits disappear then it is not far away from thinking that "maybe I should try Adwords...."