I dont claim to be an article marketing expert, but I do both. I run about 10 article sites and I submit articles using an auto submitter. I feel that you can make money both ways.
I submit anywhere from 5 to 25 articles per weeks using a free, online article submitter to post my articles to hundreds or thousands or sites. The articles run from 500 to 1,000 words and are related to whatever it is that I am selling.
For example, I write articles about Thailand while promoting my affiliate hotel sites geared specifically to Thailand. I also write marketing articles and point them to a variety of sites that I run.
Using the auto submitter, I can get my articles and more importantly, links to my sites, all over the Internet. The more links that point back to my sites, the better the search engines like me.
I have about 10 different article sites and a few blogs that accept articles automatically. I manually approve each and every article. I like to check to make sure that the articles are following my submission guidelines. The biggest violators put links in the text and more than 2 links in the resource box. I try to contact them to advise them of the rules and if they continue, I disable their accounts.
So, which is better? I would have to say that submitting the articles is the more beneficial as it gets my links in hundreds or even thousands of web sites. Back links are looked upon very favorably by the search engines and I love to have my links everywhere and for a long time. And, if I am lucky, some marketer or eZine will send out my article to their mail list getting me more exposure.
Running the article sites is a bit time consuming since I have to check the articles 2 or 3 times per day or I get inundated. Manual approval is a must for me since I want to check and make sure the articles are quality. And with the auto submitters, not many actual people visit the site, just the auto bots. But I still think there is value since my own articles get posted to my article sites, I can easily advertise, and they are ranked high in Google and Alexa.
So, I would try to do both but would put the emphasis on getting my articles out to the world with links back to my sites. This will get more traffic and hopefully more sales.