...Instead, create something along the lines of a verbose directory, or pages with full descriptions...
I agree with the above being a win win situation, a healthy exposure for advertisers, and WebmasterWorld can justify the asked price whether counted by monthly page views or an annual flat fee. I go as far as to call advertiser pages as their mini homepages on WebmasterWorld where a comprehensive description about what they offer and links to their sites. Link that to their signature and profile. For a premium, advertisers can also sponsor a category, in that category, each thread will have sponsored by widget sellers Ltd with a link to the mini homepage, not their site. WebmasterWorld will have added indexed content within a directory of quality advertisers, SEs won't mind directories of top sites and that content is like a unique yellow pages. Don't go the PPC way, that would attract competition with SEs, if you grow bigger on that, they'll slam you to the bottom.
Finally, I'd wrap the forum with something like a drupal framework to offer extra content such as social networking, private groups, news and reviews etc, the forums will become a module / plugin and I believe there is one.
Too much ads, banners, bells and whistles are no good, I am a member of seo*h*t, I very rarely go there now, my eyes start hurting from all the animation and ads besides half of the threads in each category are stickies (or is it stickys)...although they have a great community with some great contributors, they were like this forum, nice, clean and fast loading, so don't make the same mistake, their current SERPs on G* may seem like a wakeup call to the admins here, that's because of their stronger network backers with a massive backlink power, take that away or devalue it slightly (G* will soon do when this mayday update is done) and you're left with a middle of the road forum with peripheral sections.
WebmasterWorld should be a full blown social networking site with this forum at the heart of it.
Brett, In any case, I'd wait another three months or so when the mayday update has settled, I know this forum has taken a slight knock just like any other of the major sites and as I said on the mayday update thread, it is temporary!
It does not hurt meanwhile to stick a leaderboard or even adsense on the first post / last post of every thread to attract some quick funding which I am OK with!