Tell me a high ranking site that has not run a link building campaign. Unless you are an offline brand, you will need to run a campaign to obtain links. No one will link to you otherwise. Reciprocal link building or getting your articles published on other sites, is the same for me. In both cases links are not naturally obtained. So why give more importance to one over the other?
In my opinion the whole concept of giving importance to links is flawed and has been resorted to because of inability of searchengines to identify other useful factors which can truly reflect usefulness of a site.
Look at it this way, in the offline world, in which shop or office have you come across a notice board which guides customers to competitor shops or businesses. NONE. So, why should this be considered normal online.
If searchengines did not consider it important, would you link to other sites?
By making factors like inbound links important, searchengines are encouraging spamming techniques. Unless searchengines can find more useful factors which truly reflect usefulness of sites, they are going to be spammed.
In my opinion, go ahead and get lots of reciprocal links. They will get you a PR of 4 or 5 and a fair chance of getting good rankings for niche keywords. Once you reach that stage, to move up, you will need to get innovative with everything including your product offering, pricing and delivery strategies and of course ranking strategies.
Cross the first hurdle. Get reciprocal links. They will be helpful irrespective of what anyone says.