Yep this FREE forum you are using for FREE is supported by a BUSINESS to maintain the fact that it is FREE...... If those linked words help drive revenue and keep the forum alive and FREE we all benefit...
forums are competing in a market for eyes
this forum is in competition with other forums dealing with largely similar subjects
all of which are free
and none of the others I visit have the auto links
and I have never come across a forum that you have to pay to be on
it is of course the forum owners choice
however, in my opinion links that no-one clicks on are a bit pointless
links that act as a disincentive to posters and viewers are counter productive
as some-one else said - they are just the tiniest bit annoying
however, if your stats suggest that they are worth having......
rig up a few more and that might winch in the posters