Tens of millions of fans from around the world voted in the first ever YouTube Music Awards. From October 21 through the start of the show at 6PM ET on Sunday, November 3, viewers were encouraged to cast their ballots by sharing official YTMA nomination videos across Google+, Twitter, and Facebook. The artist behind the video with the most “votes” in each of the six categories then went on to claim the title of YouTube Music Award Winner and receive a heavy-looking YouTube Play Button as a trophy.

Fans also had a say in the nominees of those six categories. The artists and videos nominated in the YTMAs were culled from videos across the video sharing site and represented the “highest levels of YouTube fan engagement, including views, likes, shares, comments, and subscriptions.”

One aspect of the YouTube Music Awards in which the fans did not have a voice, however, was the comments. At least not on YouTube.

YouTube disabled the ability to comment on the YTMA live stream, causing many fans to take to Twitter to emote about and critique the show, as well as express their confusion as to why they couldn’t simply make their thoughts known below the video.

To answer Mike’s question, I’d say yes. Comments are definitely not the biggest part of YouTube, but surely one of the biggest parts of YouTube, especially in terms of growing and interacting with a fan base (as outlined in YouTube’s very own Creator Playbook). It’s also a feature in which the video sharing site sees obvious value, as Google programmers are hard at work making improvements on the comments section.

 

And to make a few remarks on Jimmy’s statement, it does seem odd that YouTube was emphatically promoting how the YTMAs were all about, for, and by the fans, yet didn’t allow those fans to interact with the show in one of the internet’s easiest and most innate ways.

So, why did YouTube disable the comments on the YTMA live stream? Here’s the reasoning from a YouTube spokesperson:

YouTube comments are designed so that any video owner can decide whether to enable or disable commenting on their videos. In this case we disabled comments on the YouTube Music Awards live stream to focus attention on the stream itself, while enabling comments on all the Music Awards’ highlight videos, and encouraging and contributing to the #YTMA discussion on Twitter and Google+.

It’s an interesting tactic, and one that seems antithetical to promoting viewership, upping engagement, and differentiating YouTube from more traditional entertainment platforms. Most creators on and off YouTube go to great lengths to entice interaction on and around their videos, so it’s odd YouTube itself wouldn’t want to make it as simple as possibly to promote that kind of interactivity for one of its most high profile events.

Yes, YouTube comments can be flippant, vitriolic, and scary to sponsors, but they can also be deliberate, respectful, and (sometimes even) pleasantly surprising to brands. And what’s more, is they’re a key part of the platform. If YouTube wanted to focus as much attention as possible on the YTMA stream, the powers that be could’ve used the comments section in innovative ways to direct viewers towards the show and keep more viewers engaged for longer periods of time.

And even if the YTMAs were the worst thing ever (which they weren’t), it’s important to remember what we’ve learned from Howard Stern’s Private Parts and (more recently) Miley Cyrus. Haters and trolls are going to hate and leave nasty comments, but they still watch your videos.