External views can pay if they happen to a member who's Googling (rare, but it happens). Internal views are obviously where the money's at.
External views are great for vanity numbers (like I have 1,000,000 views that I can put on my resume): https://medium.com/@derek_develops/how-much-medium-paid-me-for-1-000-000-views-on-my-blog-ad6487105407
Internal / external just refers to the referrer, actually, which I think is an important point. And not getting curated itself doesn't necessarily mean you won't get internal views, since curation isn't actually prerequisite for showing up in the app's recommendations.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think you have exactly the right idea that responding to others is the best way to generate internal traffic in the long run.
Linking back to your own articles used to be a good idea, but with the new response format it's not really useful (because to make links work you have to make a new story, which turns your response into a box that someone would have to click on to read).