You can't find the topic because you're browser is zoomed way in. On a normal browser it'd be one row of ads. The guest users don't contribute to the forum so that is their "payment" for getting the information they are searching for.
The impression it leaves on first time visitors probably varies quite a bit. You, not being a first time visitor really can't tell us what a first time visitor thinks. What I do know is that our return visitor rates, guest pageviews, and memberships have all increased since we upgraded the site.
I'll leave whether or not it's a marketing fail up to the new visitors. If our traffic ever slows down and it's because we're being too invasive to unproductive visitors we may change the site to be more accommodating.
We've got to get something new to talk about now... I think its your turn to post who you think is going to AA at each weight next year. :P