I applaud your efforts to keep things constructive in this thread. You asked for non member feedback with some specific questions, so here goes...
The thread regarding BPL's future and what people would like to see that occurred in the summer was also something informative and I contributed to it, so I won't repeat myself here.
What I find strange is that Ryan only issued a reply to members, which is like talking to the converted. I'm sure people on the fence like me would have liked to know about BPL's plans before we join up.
In general, you ask here and in another thread what would it take for non memebers to join. I can only speak for myself, but can summarize with one word: Content.
If you look at the home page, there is a banner sequence of five links. Three are for subscription or BPL promotional gift ideas, one review about ski bindings, and a mini article from the Tips book. That hasn't changed in over a week. If BPL is a magazine, this is pretty poor, especially if they are trying to lure people in to read and discover the site. No content there.
What has happenned in the last few weeks in just gear alone? Two new packs from GG, two from MLD, the new sleeping systems from ZPacks, new shoulder strap fixings from ZPacks, etc You get the point. Even small artiicles like 'first looks' would entice people to get into the site. Ads from the companies involved would keep the site free and provide continuity. If you are worried about objectivity, hey, there will always be people moaning about that. A good example of a site that functions like this is dpreview.com. Owned by Amazon, impartial reviews, scrupulous standing in the photo community, and FREE and making money for the owners and employees. It can be done, there's enough content out there for several articles a week here, not to mention interviews, trip reports by readers, international sections and comparisons in techiniques... I'm a journalism professor, I could go on.
Next look at the banner at the top of the page. The first link is to subscribe, next to the home page, next to a blog that doesn't exist yet, next to the articles that you need to be a member to read, then the forums, and last to the school offerings of BPL. Where is the content? it is already behind a pay wall. The forums are free, and will be according to Ryan's quote you provided, except they aren't, you have to pay to be a member to buy and sell on one, the gear swap, OK, now you've reduced the market to members with no obvious benefit to either seller or buyer, what was that all about?
BPL is a great place, but there's nothing worse than a good idea done badly (Ansel Adams).
Reading Ryan's response about his other blogs etc seems to me he doesn't know what to do with BPL, has tried other things, spread himself to thin and doens't want to take responsibility. No problem from me about that, I'm not perfect either, but I like to know what I'm buying before I plonk down the readies as a customer.
I'd like to see a mission statement about BPL's future, the content they will provide, and the direction they want to go. Right now it looks like a charity masquerading as a community that sells a school when it could be so much more. Hell, I've even offered to participate/contribute and heard nothing, so where's the motivation in that?
This is meant in a constructive way, and while it may sound critical to some degree, I think it won't get any response, just like my other two posts in this thread, as people don't seem to want to address wider issues collectively. (Except Dave T- thanks). So, I'll just keep browsing the forums for the real news, and infotainment, and let the site (d)evolve into what the owners want, whatever that may be.