I have explored some of the "other" websites that offer to teach the Bible. They never tried to rope me in so that would become a donating member (at least not the ones I explored).
When WTC offers to teach you the Bible, they want you contacted by a congregation, who then tries to persuade you to come the the KH. Soon they are counting you as a member of some variety and expecting you to donate. If you chafe at getting baptized past their grace period, the criticism starts. If you get baptized, you are expected to compete on the hamster wheel. If you try to leave, the rumor mill demonizes you. Shunning follows.
You said " I think the hate the Watchtower gets is woefully unjustified in many respects".
I think WTC does not get its fair share of criticism.