Nearly three years ago, display ads stopped being an SO-only thing and came to some other relevant sites. More recently, this programme widened to include affiliate ads on most sites. Both times, one of the arguments put forward for why this was good for the health of the community was that it turned the network sites outside the "big three" from cost centres to profit centres. Because the health of these sites would now be directly linked to SE's income, this would give SE more incentive to build and support those communities.
Since then, SE the company has seen serious changes. A lot of people responsible for helping out communities, and some responsible for selling ads in the first place, have lost their jobs, leaving a smaller, more stretched team. In this period there's also been bad feeling amongst the moderators of sites that aren't SO, a sense that the company is more responsive to random people complaining on Twitter than to its own moderators (and maybe even the community managers in its own staff). (Hot network questions and the Code of Conduct being two such issues.)
Against this backdrop, it's not entirely surprising that the new expansion in ads is going to be done in a way that gives SE less input and control - because at this scale they simply don't have the people power to curate relevant and helpful ads that visitors want to see. I think we all understand that it's getting increasingly hard to keep the lights on in SE HQ, and that the smaller sites too have to earn their keep: but do we even have the resources to make that happen?
My question is, how has SE tried to make network sites more valuable since November 2016, as a result of those sites' increasing contribution to the company finances? What resources has SE made available to support those bringing traffic to those sites and building those communities?