P2P Advertising: Just More Spam


Ever wondered where all these bogus search results in P2P networks come from? It seems like you can’t use Limewire anymore without getting videos that suspiciously seem to echo your search request, but on playback just open a bunch of pop-ups for adult Youtube clones and classified websites.

Chances are these videos are brought to you by P2Pads.com – a company that promises its customers keyword-based advertising delivered through P2P networks.

Traditional P2P networks like eDonkey and Gnutella still attract about 9 million users at any given time, and more and more advertising companies want to tap into that market. Mountain View-based P2P startup Skyrider raised a total of $20 million last year, promising mainstream media companies a “desirable, tech savvy audience.”

P2Pads had a little bit of a different background. The company belongs to Gallery Traffic Service, a Canadian-based adult advertising group. P2Pads still does a lot of adult advertising, but the company is apparently eyeing the mainstream market as well. In the words of P2Pads owner Mark Hurson: “We have an amazing amount of traffic for ringtone, music, video, gaming, adult and many other ‘niches’.”

Their weapon of choice for capturing this traffic are short video clips with slightly misleading titles that trigger browser pop-up windows from within Apple’s Quicktime media player. Of course, most media companies don’t want to be accused of spamming their customers, which is why P2Pads is very particular about describing their approach as targeted. From their website:

“Using your media files (ie: commercial videos, audio ads, promotional images) we embed them with your clickable or pop up advertising. Using either keywords, demographics or categories that you provide to us in advance we are able to target your specific markets with ease.”

So how do you target a specific market in a P2P network? Answers for that can be found by looking into the history of the company. P2Pads was founded by Brad Gosse of Yourbrain Media. Gosse hired programmers for his P2P advertising software on Rentacoder.com, and some of his postings are quite telling:

“I am looking for a way to deliver files through Limewire based on search queries. (…) Files would be delivered as $searchquery + .mp3.”

Gosse changed to a just slightly more targeted approach a few months later, hiring someone to produce up to 20,000 copies of a media file based on a list of keywords.

To be fair: P2Pads isn’t doing anything illegal with these precisely targeted ad campaigns, and it’s not the only company that is polluting P2P networks. There are many more players in this market, and the spectrum reaches all the way from rogue outlets spreading spyware to multi-million dollar startups like Skyrider.

But they all face the same problem: Users should have a chance to differentiate between commercials and content before they download anything. That’s not possible if companies mislabel multimedia files and sneak in Pop-Ups as payloads.

Ultimately P2P advertisers have to work together with P2P software makers to separate their commercials from content. Otherwise P2P advertising will just be another word for spam.

Janko Roettgers is a Los Angeles-based journalist and book author. He is also the editor of P2P Blog.



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I could never see why there’s so much debate about what separates “legitimate marketing / advertising” from spam.

In any legitimate promotional campaign, the advertiser PAYS!… not only the production process, but also for the RESOURCES that are being used to spread the message.

Any promotion spread by stealing a resource that someone else is paying for is spam. It’s not Rocket Science.

I, for one, am not paying my ISP in order to provide everyone in The Great Marketing Machine a way to get their messages to me. I’m paying to access the internet, for MY PURPOSES, using MY COMPUTER.

I don’t appreciate all the interference all this “marketing activity” places on all MY resources!!…

E-mail is endangered. Antivirus, Firewall, and Malware Detection softwares must always be running. Uninvited pop-ups and Flash pop-over banner ads have become “standard rigging” for too many websites. Search engine results are becoming more useless all the time, as everyone now exploits the process. Chat venues are being abused.

And, of course, we have bogus P2P files, placed by “marketers”, helping to render P2P less functional.

This practice should be just as unacceptable (and illegal) as planting a virus in an e-mail, or installing malware to those who connect with your webpage. Many of these P2P files contain the same things. This activity will be outlawed, in time, because of this.

It’s not enough that ISPs and their users said “no” to marketing right from the beginning. Marketers had to resort to deception, trickery and employ underhanded hackers to further their efforts to continue to exploit the Internet and its “free” resources, for their own interests.

The way I see it, marketers will not be happy until they’ve successfully become the most hated people on earth, or until they’ve successfully killed the Internet’s functionality.

Outside the Virtual World, it is considered “harassment” to pursue anyone for anything, after being given a “no” the first time.

The Internet shouldn’t be any different.

Janko Roettgers

Chris, I’d love to hear more about the inner workings of your product some time, but everything I could gather so far hasn’t really convinced me that P2P users will be presented with a clear distinction between content and advertising. E.g. calling something an “ad bar” just because it happens to be grouped together in a certain situation doesn’t cut it for me. Users just have to sort their search results by different criteria to have your ad bar files all over the place …

chris redlitz


Skyrider’s first product focused on search marketing into P2P networks. We approached this very similarly to how Google and Yahoo approach Web search marketing. We delineate “sponsored links” and clearly identify the offer and target the searches based on relevant keywords or offers that are appropriate to the younger male demographic. Our goal is not to spoof or spam, but present appropriate marketing messages to this global audience. Skyrider is a technology based company with our original heritage in anti piracy products. In all of our future product implementation, we intend to present discovery and relevancy the P2P environment. We realize that there are many forms of spam, spyware and
fake files, but as P2P becomes more organized, utilizing the power of the decentralized architecture, significant business opportunities and user benefit will arise.


Spam all but killed Usenet as a discusssion medium. It remains to be seen if spam will also destroy P2P networks. Currently, the fake files released by the anti-P2P companies like MediaSentry seem to be more common than spamfiles or spyware-installing trojans.

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