Yeah, I mean, technically with a certain number of subscribers, you theoretically start earning money, but... like... you need so many for it to matter! I doubt I'll ever reach that level, so I don't even worry about it. I'd definitely make more from a Patreon account.
This is all to say: I agree with you. I would much, MUCH rather have a smaller, dedicated audience that interacts with, and cares about, the story than a bunch of dead names and crickets in the comments section. And I offer people the same thing in exchange-- If I subscribe to your story, it's because I'm emotionally invested in it in some way. If I comment, it's because I have something to say.
I want (and promise) real interaction, not just a statistic.