The old business I worked for removed all "paid" links in January. These were links from sites often mentioned by google and people here as acceptable because of their authority. They did it because traffic was so low they couldn't justify the expense.
In late April their traffic went up 70%, it went up 30% on 5/17.
It makes me wonder if even the old accepted directories are now no longer helping or in some cases hurting. Nothing else changed on their site aside of 4-5 links.