Warning.....wall of text ahead...
Its something I find rather interesting and I know there are a lot of varying opinions on the subject. My thoughts on this where inspired by a recent poll and at the risk of people telling me once again that I am boasting or obsessed with views *eye roll* I will tell you my take on the whole thing.
DA is a diverse place where artists can come and share their creations but in the community there seems to be the misconception that talent/skill = popularity and if you're not the best then you don't deserve the exposure. Praise is given to those who make original work and those who do fanart are considered taking the cheap road to fame. But why is fanart more popular? simply because its more widely known and easier to relate to. Its that simple. If you see a fanart of your favourite character you are more likely to be interested opposed to someone's original character. When you draw a fanart you are drawing on the pre existing fandom that goes with it. This is also true for the oh-so-annoying motivational posters and screenshots too
Building your own fan base for original works and characters is often much trickier but not impossible and in some ways more rewarding when you've built it up from scratch.
Another point is the content of the work and how it is perceived by the viewer. This applies to fanart and original art. You can have all the talent under the sun but if your art is boring people are not going to be interested. The reverse is also true, you may not be terribly technically skilled but if you can evoke an emotion in the viewer (e.g humour/fear/happiness etc) then they are more likely to take a personal interest in it and share it with others.
And now from my own personal perspective... not to proud to admit...but when I first joined I was obsessed with views >.> I drew fanarts from anime's I though were popular and spammed the forums with 'if you watch me I will watch you' crap... but now I would have to say DA popularity isn't something that interests me terribly. It has its upsides like getting good feedback and getting to meet some nice people, but then there is the constant trolling, spamming, art theft, impersonation etc... I only noticed an increase in people looking at my art after I stopped worrying so much and just decided to make art that I enjoyed. I decided to have fun drawing different situations and exploring the the characters quirks and personalities, I love drawing art from new mangas/animes/movies and I love it when others enjoy it too. I love hearing peoples thoughts and peoples suggestions. I turned away from my frustration and focused on enjoying my own art and maybe that's what people noticed?
The reason I wrote this is because a lot of people I have talked to sounded discouraged and I just want you to know that from personal experience? Stop worrying so much and just have fun :'D
TL;DR Its about having fun! *and don't take DA so seriously >.>*
If this topic interests you or you have any thoughts I would be happy to hear them?