This past Sunday, November 3rd, YouTube decided to take a leap and reinvent the fundamentals of music video awards as we know them; YouTube held their inaugural YouTube Music Awards (YTMA). The live-streamed event, sponsored by Kia, took place in New York City. Directed by Spike Jonze, YTMA was an interesting and unconventional mix of miscellaneous acts, unscripted hosts (Jason Schwartzman and Reggie Watts), and awkward moments. Although they received criticism of their “home made” feel they did one-up their MTV awards competitors in one aspect, along with live performances by popular artist such as Eminem, Lady Gaga, and Arcade Brothers they also incorporated “live music videos”.
According to Ad Age, YouTube averages more than 1 billion viewers each month and is owned by Google, the most powerful of all internet companies. With this is mind we can only assume that the YTMA was a huge success. Wrong! The viewership was astonishing low, it was only viewed by 220,000 people at its peak; to put this into perspective the MTV VMA’s viewership was at 10.1 million this year.
So where did they go wrong? Although both Kia and Youtube advertised on their websites’ homepages for some time prior to the event. YouTube neglected to realize the importance of advertising on their mobile app. This was a huge miss to their prime public because mobile apps are 40% of where their user base are present.
Also, unlike watching music video awards on TV, YouTube had a social media disadvantage. Like many live TV events YMTA did have a hashtag, #YTMA, for viewers to tweet while watching the event. The hashtag reached a decent number of about 30,000 tweets, but there was potential to have had much more. Once again they forgot to keep in mind that many of their viewers watch from mobile devices, making it difficult to watch and tweet at the same time. This resulted with a large decrease of tweets about YTMA when the event went live, which possibly hindered other tweeters to start viewing.
These two factors alone go against the Audience Theory by Chaïm Perelman and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca which states “approaches will achieve the greatest adherence according to an ideal audience.” YouTube’s target audience is the social media and mobile users, and because YouTube did not take into account these minor but impacting factors, it may have cost them viewers. Nicholas Carr the author of The Shallows says, “most TV shows and movies are also trying to become more Web-like”. I think YouTube may be going in the wrong direction. They have excelled as an online video website, for their sake they should keep it that way and stop trying to be more TV-like.