I offer this up in the interest of constructive criticism, and fully understanding that I am new here and don`t have much of the SuN backstory. So take all this with as many grains of salt as necessary....
I too find the expanded advertising real estate intrusive. It feels like there`s a rude guy off to the right jumping up and down and shouting over the conversations people are trying to have. It feels... well... disrespectful.
I think the advertising model used in the SuN forum redesign works in conjunction with one-to-many broadcast style content (sometimes... it sure isn`t doing much for newspaper websites). But when you`re talking about many-to-many content, that`s a conversation; and disrupting the conversation is ultimately counterproductive to delivering eyeballs to advertisers. Not to mention the consequences to the community, assuming that the advertising is to make the community possible and not vice-versa.
I think if "community" is truly supposed to be part of SuN`s draw, Starbuck`s is a good example to look at... Starbuck`s has made a fortune marketing community. Their genius is in creating an atmosphere conducive to community, and then making coffee & related paraphernalia available as an adjunct to that atmosphere. If they had a rude guy off to the right shouting about how great Microsoft is, no one would go there. Salon.com
has come up with an innovative advertising system that maintains the integrity of their community — the "day pass." If you`re not familiar, this is a one- or two-minute ad that nonsubscribers must watch before they can access Salon.com content, and it is good to access all the content for one day. The next day, they must watch a new ad. Now, Salon.com does charge for access to their forums (afaik — they used to do this, at least) but they also have the added expense of a full-blown journalism newsroom that SuN doesn`t have. A "day pass" to the SuN forums could potentially generate the necessary revenue while also making it possible to keep the rude guy in the forums down to 120px wide or whatever. I imagine this probably also has the added benefit of increasing clickthrough rates, since visitors` attention isn`t divided between the content and the ads.
There`s also lots of room for ads in those "new post" notifications I receive. I don`t know about anyone else, but my SuN notifications are among the emails I try not to miss and ads there aren`t going to deter me.
In any event, so that`s my constructive criticism & suggestions, for whatever its worth to whomever.