Overall, some critics said this year's show was also less glamorous than years past, set at the Palms Hotel in Las Vegas, rather than more upscale locales like New York's Radio City Music Hall.
"In the 80s and 90s, the VMAs were really elaborate, and the amount of money spent was truly extravagant," said Phil Gallo, associate editor of Variety, who covers music, and has attended several of the awards shows in the past.
"Anyone who picks up the show that would go in a venue like Radio City, and then moves somewhere new, shows there's a lot of promotional considerations going on, and a lot more barter than outlay of cash," said Gallo.
"Like everybody in the entertainment business," added Gallo, "they want to see how they can do everything as cheaply as possible."
Celebrity bloggers were universally disappointed with the show, and blogged furiously throughout the night to log all of the action — or lack, thereof — at the awards show.
"It was sort of a really choppy schizophrenic program that wasn't exactly the kind of historic Super Bowl-like event that MTV was going for," said Moe Tkacik, editor of the popular gossip blog Jezebel, who live-blogged the VMAs.
"It's hard to say MTV is irrelevant or uncool, based on those horrible three hours of programming," said Tkacik, "but it shows that things like 'The Hills' are what's going to keep them relevant."
"I was just sitting there confused," said Maura Johnston, the editor of Idolator.com, who also live-blogged the show. "It was a train wreck from the beginning to the very, very end."
For some, the fact that so many bloggers and mainstream media outlets are interested in the VMAs at all shows that MTV hasn't lost its spark completely.
Even before the VMAs were over, headlines reflecting Britney Spears' lackluster performance were plastered on gossip blogs and news sites, garnering comments from viewers, eager to see what everyone else thought of the show.
The kind of cult following that MTV still enjoys — albeit more for drama-filled shows like "The Hills" than for new musicians — is what keeps them intact, experts say.
"I didn't think it was tremendously exciting, and the days of the lesbian kiss and Howard Stern coming down from the roof are hard to reinvent," said Ronn Torossian, president and CEO of 5W Public Relations, who has worked with celebrities like Diddy, Pamela Anderson and Snoop Dogg.
"It's tremendously sexy — just not the sexiest, but people are always going to watch it, and it's still going to be a scene," said Torossian.
"I think they were successful because, honestly, the MTV Music Awards are really all about trying to get publicity and hype," said Lisa Timmons, who blogged about the show on her site, the Socialitelife.com.