p2pJoeArtThe smartwatch movement inspired me recently, which is surprising because I haven’t worn a watch since I started carrying a smartphone many years ago. I’m about as far as you can get from being a fashionista and I liken a watch to other obsolete single-use devices like the GPS. I doubt I’ll buy one anytime soon but I believe the device synchronization model used by smartwatches lends itself to content distribution as well.

You’re probably aware of how most smartwatches get paired with your smartphone. Although they don’t have all the capabilities of a smartphone, things like text messages and phone calls can be redirected from your phone to your watch, thanks in large part to Bluetooth technology. Your phone communicates with your watch the same way your phone connects with a wireless headset or desktop Bluetooth speaker, for example.

Let’s fast-forward to the day when we’ve all become peer-to-peer content distributors. Rather than relying on centrally-managed and hosted sites and services that handle everything from reviews to downloads, this peer-to-peer model means we’re doing all that for each other using Bluetooth or some other simple networking protocols. For example, your phone or computer can easily be turned into a wifi server, allowing you to connect multiple devices to it; that’s a capability that exists today and I’m suggesting it could be extended for new uses in the future.

The Kindle introduced a whole new level of reading privacy. Once upon a time on a crowded bus you could see the cover of the book being read by the person across the aisle. Now we’re all masking our reading habits with tablets and phones. No, I’m not suggesting we embrace an overly intrusive model that has privacy advocates screaming in the streets. Rather, I believe a peer-to-peer model could be used to improve discovery and consumption at the hyperlocal level.

Think of the hundreds of riders on a commuter train each morning. Maybe they’re traveling from the northern suburbs into Manhattan. Some of them are neighbors. Many of them are businesspeople. All of them probably follow and read some type of news. Instead of just knowing the top global trends on Google, wouldn’t it be interesting to know what news stories your fellow commuters are reading?

The same concept can be applied to passengers on a plane or even homeowners in a neighborhood. Just as NextDoor.com has disrupted Angie’s List and brought communication and recommendations to the local level, I suggest a peer-to-peer model could do the same for content.

The peer-to-peer aspect really shines when you consider how the content gets from my device to yours. That news story I just read on TheGuardian.com still lives in my browser’s cache. If enough of my fellow commuters read the same article, it floats to the top of the popular news list for our little commuter community. You click the link to it in our peer-to-peer content app and the article is pulled from my cache to your device.

In short, we’re distributing content to each other, without having to go up and down, to and from a central server. Wouldn’t this be terrific on a 4-hour flight with no wifi? Each of our devices acts as a mini-server, hosting content for everyone else.

Publishers would freak out over this model, at least initially. They’ll no longer control distribution and it will create holes in their analytics. I’m sure most, if not all, publishers have something buried in their terms and conditions preventing this sort of thing, but those who want to embrace broader distribution and consumption will eventually warm up to it.

Btw, the model isn’t limited to web pages. Think about the benefits this offers the book publishing sector. What if you could see a list of the popular ebooks in your neighborhood or among your fellow commuters? And what if you could pull a sample of one of those popular titles from someone else’s device, again, a particularly useful solution when you’re outside wifi and cellular range? If you decide you like that sample and you end up buying the ebook your peer-to-peer commuter friend gets credit for the sale with an affiliate cut of the resulting transaction.

We place way too much emphasis on the ability to measure global trends. You see it every day on Google, Twitter, etc. While we all care about these global trends, we’re also keenly interested in local and hyper-local trends. This peer-to-peer model addresses that point while also providing some relief for data plan limits and spotty wifi coverage.

Related: S&S Tries Geo-Targeting in New Marketing Outreach (Publishers Weekly)

(Orignally published in Joe Wikert’s Digital Content Strategies.)


  1. Publishing already has this herd-mentality reading option. It’s called bestseller lists. After all, the masses can’t be wrong when they say Dan Brown and the SHADES OF GREY author are brilliant writers. (snort of sarcasm)

    If this kind of “sharing” is available, how will the content creators be paid?

  2. Well, Marilynn, if nothing else, the sharing could be wonderful for public domain books, as well as library books with proper licensing in place (such as “unglue”).

    Of greatest interest commercially , imagine the possibility for distribution of sample chapters from authors paid royalties. Or how about time-limited reading of whole books?

    If nothing else, you might want to check out what S&S is up to, in terms of geo-based efforts.

    As for Dan Brown and the Shades of Grey scribbler vs. Dreiser, you know the one I’d choose. I’m just as aware as you are of the limits of social media. But perhaps libraries could use Joe’s P2P approach to help spread word of overlooked books. Those lists could show not only samples of popular books but also links to librarian-recommended titles. Keep in mind that many readers start out with dreck and librarians nudge them toward better reading.


  3. Thanks for your comments, Marilynn. My article was an attempt to break away from the larger herd mentality you described and get to a more local one. Yes, it still involves a herd, albeit a much smaller one. Regarding compensation, please read the next-to-last paragraph of the article. You’ll see I describe a transaction that still goes through the traditional retailers, so authors would get compensated the same way as they always have.

  4. Hello Joe,
    Lenro (http://lenro.co) is the solution that you are looking for. Using Lenro, you can:
    – Find and meet book readers in your immediate neighborhood.
    – Borrow/Lend books with neighborhood book readers. For free!
    – Meet like-minded book readers in your neighborhood & discuss everything about your favorite books, life and so much more.
    – Save Money. Spread the love of books.

    Please have a look at Lenro and let me know how do you feel about it. Thanks 🙂

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