I don't doubt that there is less money in selling ad space on websites than perhaps there once was, maybe not enough to keep this site or others running, I really can't say myself. What I said was that IF there is any viable source of income for a website like this one that's where it is, not in trying to sell something that isn't marketable because you can get it free elsewhere (or significantly more of it for free, to be more accurate).
It seems to me that the photohosting thing here is more of a way of soliciting donations. I find this a little confusing because either this site is a business that sells products or services to a group of customers or it's a sort of community bulletin board that isn't profit oriented and genuinely needs those who use it to support it. It's not for me to decide which of these this site is but it certainly can't be both at the same time.
Maybe I've misunderstood something here and the motives of the owners of this site aren't to sell anything or make money but to run a community site for us all to share. If that's the case then it's probably more appropriate to charge a membership fee than to hope people will buy something they don't need or wouldn't ordinarily have to pay for.
Personally I would consider buying a membership to use a site that I found useful in some way but I will never buy anything from anyone that I don't need or I if can get a better price somewhere else. I guess I just don't know where I stand here; am I customer or a member of a community? If I'm a customer I say: no thanks, I can get a better deal. If I am a member of a community then let me in on how much money is needed and be up front about asking for donations instead of hoping I'll feel guilty about not "buying" a photo account.
I feel a little light headed... maybe you should drive...