I've always maintained an account at on of the article marketing networks (SEOlinkvine, My Article Network etc) I haven't really got into using free article directories as I haven't really had the time. I'm just trying to get an opinion from someone who has used both methods as to what works best. I find that with the paid you seem to get a good rush at first upon joining but then you just seem to get links from the same shitty low PR sites - thats why I change networks every few months. I think I have been happiest with SEO LInkvine, haven't made my mind up about MyArticle Network yet and Linkracer was a total waste of time and money. The links take a while to show up, and the most annoying thing is that you don't get supplied a list of where they have been published.