Well, let's say someone creates a new website. In your opinion, where should people start talking about this? The Internet is not a fair or just thing for everyone. If you have enough money to invest, just use Google Adwords and you do not need anything else. But would you invest thousands or even 10s of thousands just waiting for the best?
From my 12 year experience, SEO is a myth. It's about getting people interested in what you're offering in your store (also known as … I'm going to Starbucks because I want a coffee). About a year ago, a test was done with a few newly created websites, some were suggested to a few paid directories (BOTW, Business.com and a few others) and there was a positive rating signal. Do not think it was a coincidence.
A directory is nothing more than a collection of resources. If an accredited institution has a page with all the real estate companies in a specific area, would not you like to be on that list as well?
And DMOZ is dead as we know it, but the project will continue.