Monday, December 8, 2008

Trying to keep dry in Venice

Exactly a week ago I left Istanbul to return home to London. It was a sad moment as I had just enjoyed one of my most entertaining weekends away for some time. From being serenaded by my enormous, hirsute masseur in the Turkish Baths to standing in the middle of the cavernous Haggia Sophia as the afternoon sunlight angled through the slatted windows spilling out onto the floor below, there was something for every mood and occasion. 


Unlike in Venice. For as I was wandering through the grounds of Topkapi Palace in 20 degrees celcius I had a couple of friends who were spending their weekend away on the first floor of their Hotel, huddling around the radiator. I though that they were painting a rather over imaginative picture of their weekend as I received their texts until I got back to the office on Tuesday morning - until I found this email from our guide in Venice:


"Hi all,
Thought you might like to see these images of Venice during one of the worst floods since records began.
I had a very interesting morning trying to find a route that didn't have water above knee level, but was stumped, so had to go to a dentist's surgery and ask if I could take off my tights, then waded through knee-high murky and freezing canal water to get to work.
I then washed, dried  off and put my immaculate tights and some boots other than wellies on! However, the water continued to rise, reaching thigh-high levels, meaning that I was trapped at work
(without electricity or heating for a couple of hours). 
The local boat company workers were also on strike yesterday, meaning that the city was completely paralyzed and isolated.  
The good news is that nobody was seriously hurt or killed; the bad news is that  lots of people had their homes and businesses ruined by the salty lagoon water. Life went back to semi-normal in our lovely city today.  
Hope you enjoy the images! 
Best Jo"



It's clear that not every city is perfect for exploring all of the time, least of all by foot. It's why we believe our Hotspots are so good.We developed them for the citystroller to use both before and during your his/her stay. If they'd at least taken our 60 Minute City when them my friends would have left with a vague sense of what normally goes on outside. But who knows, maybe Italian television was particularly good last weekend.

Venice flood photos will be uploaded on the website shortly. Might even be able to sneak one or two of them onto the blog. 

...in the meantime, StrollOn.








Monday, October 6, 2008

An Audio welcome to London

As promised, here is a sample of the Sixty Minute City. This is the part of the first chapter - an introduction to London for the first timer. 

You've got to admit that it is a very different sound to our original walks and tours, for better or for worse you decide...



Get Strolling...

Our new 60 Minute City

Some time ago I mentioned a new product called the Sixty Minute City. The good news is that that we have now finished this particular audio gem and are ready for its distribution. And in order to whet your appetite, we have included a brief audio explanation of what exactly it is. If you like what you hear visit our website and you'll be able to get hold of the full product.

Happy listening...




and in the meantime StrollOn...

Monday, September 22, 2008

Dealing with the Credit Crunch

From the minute I first heard the term "credit crunch" I was concerned that it would come to irritate more than depress me. Because there is nothing that anyone of us mere mortals can do about it other than carrying on as we did before. We must not lose faith in the markets and we must not scrimp and save. If this is a recession that we are facing then we need to spend our way out of it. And if we are unable to have confidence in the money men and MPs that govern our economy then we must at least have confidence in ourselves and our collective ability to survive what a credit crunch may throw at us.

So it all comes down to confidence and spending for the ordinary British and global citizen. We need to keep up both and we shall be alright in time. But what about during the interim, in the meantime? Should we need to cut down on the odd luxury what is it likely to be? After all the great British public have a penchant for luxury goods. We like to spoil and pamper ourselves and, when recently asked, a fair percentage of the population responded that the last luxury that they would be prepared to sacrifice during hard times would be holidaying and travel abroad.

And looking at the economics of it all, I can see no reason why this should not continue to be the case. Finally, after months of increases in fuel prices (that has ensured the fate of XL and Eos) it looks like the balance is being redressed. Fuel prices are beginning to drop again, meaning that airlines are able to operate at an affordable rate again. And I'm not just talking about the likes of Easy Jet and Ryan Air, I'm also referring to airlines such as British Airways. I recently booked a return flight to Istanbul with BA and it cost me no more than £200. I happen to think that this is exceptional value. Now couple that with 4 nights in a decent hotel in the centre of the Historic Quarter and I was required to pay a measly £286 in total.

With dropping fuel prices, an innate desire to holiday and a government keen for us to spend it would appear that the city break lives on. Certainly it is a quick and easy way to escape all the hype and negative publicity at home and, as long as the likes of Lastminte can afford to give away extended weekends to exotic European outposts such as Istanbul for under £300, we should all be looking to take advantage of the current situation. I can't help but feel that my early concerns were ill founded; that this credit crunch needn't be such a bad thing.

It is only when you get to your destination that you may have to slightly alter your holiday spending habits, and this is where StrollOn will be soon be able to help in more ways than you may think...

...in the meantime, StrollOn.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Paris, rain and compliments

Although England's weather is the butt of many a foreign joke - along with our food, teeth and football team - what few realise or care to acknowledge is the fact that there is, in fact, less annual rainfall in London than there is in Paris. No wonder this is the capital of romance: as it pours outside for the 38th day on the trot what else is there to do other than try your luck with the ladies, trawling from cafe to cafe with a gauloises cigarette clinging desperately on to your lower lip, shrugging this way and grunting that.

And so it was with little surprise that, when I woke up on Friday morning, having arrived late on Thursday night, I opened the curtain to a rain splattered window, framing a grey sky. But being one of a group of 8 englishmen, we wrapped up warm and headed outside to be greeted by the mad dogs. We set off from the seizieme arrondissement and soon arrived near our destination of the Eiffel Tower - one of our number had never visited it before(?). A short stroll along the river from the metro station and there we were, staring up at this giant A-Frame.

Since the rest of us had been up to the top before, when the world was a better place and the price of a lift to the top was considerably less, there was no way that we were going to repeat the experience, even with an Eiffel virgin present. There was, therefore, a lot of foot shuffling and light social interaction as we all looked up at the top thinking (almost all of us) why are we here AGAIN?

Then it hit me. I have some of the most cynical friends on God's earth. Few, if any of them, have ever supported the idea of an audio city guide, smiling with a glazed condescension as I attempt to sell them the concept in time for their next visit to Amsterdam. But here we were, cynical or not, looking up at the Eiffel Tower feeling nothing but resentment, resentment that we were seeing something for the 3rd or 4th time and that we would leave this time with nothing.

But it did not have to be this way. We could leave with something: knowledge, understanding and appreciation as well as a random fact or two. Recently we (at StrollOn) have been developing our "Hotspots". The thinking behind them is that you download them (between 10 and 15 per city) onto your ipod before you head for a city and then listen to the content as and when you encounter each individual sight and attraction - we do not set you a prescribed route or walk. So I brought out my ipod, extricated myself from the group and started to listen to the track about the Eiffel Tower.

Within a minute or so I was sharing an ear piece with the virgin. Five minutes later and my ipod was in the hands of two new listeners. This was just the beginning. We passed a few more of the sights and, as people became familiar with the routine, they would shout out the name and we would see whether it was covered. If it was, 15 minutes later, after everyone had had a listen, we would move on, out of the rain. Now, bearing in mind that honesty is the best policy, I must confess that I was pushing the product. A lot. And all day. As a went to bed that night I wondered whether this was a one off. Tomorrow it would be forgotten about unless I pushed it equally if not more forcibly...

On Sunday we headed off to Notre Dame, not for mass I must confess (but not in confession) but to climb to the top. The queue for the climb was long so we decided to have a snoop around inside, to see whether this had anything on Canterbury, Yorkminster or Durham (and no is the answer). After 10 minutes upsetting the apple cart as I shuffled around the apse contra-flow I headed outside. To perhaps the most life affirming moment of recent months: a dour yorkshireman sitting in the middle of the square looking up at the two towers and taking in the building's many sculptures and wall reliefs, ipod in hand, ear plugs in ears. Rumbled, he defended himself saying, "this is the best idea ever".

The Hotspot had caught on...

StrollOn.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

StrollOn to Paris

Why am I so upset? No, it's not because I am about to head off to the Capital of Romance armed with a beret and baguette, but it is because I am about to spend a weekend in Paris without being able to trial our new Sixty Minute City.

Whilst we have now finished producing this new audio guide for London, Prague and Amsterdam, at StrollOn we have had a few issues with the timing of Paris. So I will have to satisfy myself with our free Hotpots and Sixty Minute Stroll.

Being the only one of the team to have only ever tried our products in London this represents a big moment for me. Not only am I going to use an audio guide abroad, but it will be a StrollOn one and it will, perhaps most importantly, be the first time in my life that I will have been able to mix business with pleasure.

So the pressure is on, my expectations are high and I do not expect to be left disappointed. We have not heard from any disenchanted customers to date, but I have nonetheless formulated a back up plan, which includes a bicycle helmet, a tour guide and great balance: it's time to meet monsieur et madame segway...

Until I return, StrollOn...

Friday, August 15, 2008

StrollOn, ipods and Aeroplanes

Big News. Or at least it was on 14th November 2006 when Tony Smith at Register Hardware reported that 6 major airlines had agreed to fit their passengers’ seats with ipod docks. The docks and connectors (enabling each ipod access to the in-fligt entertainment system) were to be added mid 2007.

The results of this proposed exercise were that the passenger would be able to keep their ipods powered up on long journeys, as well as play ipod-stored content (including video content) on seat-back screens. Apple’s partner in crime was announced as being Panasonic Avionics, a company that specialises in in-flight entertainment and communications systems.

According to Tony Smith and confirmed by Darren Cronian on 15th November 2006 at Travel-Rants.com the six carriers were Air France, Continental, Delta, Emirates, KLM and United.

Whilst this all appeared to be very exciting, it was not exactly clear for whom: Apple, the Airlines or the passenger? Whilst the deal was clearly beneficial to both of the former, neither Apple nor any of the Airlines were so kind as to clarify which class of traveller would get ipod connectivity, leaving Smith to suspect that “it’ll be those whose seats command higher ticket prices to start off with”.

Travis Hudson at Gizmodo asked what this meant for the passenger. The main answer was that this would be a more enjoyable flying experience as you can listen to and watch your ipod content knowing that it won’t run out of batteries. According to Greg Joswiak, Apple’s Vice-President of Worldwide Product Marketing, "there is no better traveling companion than an iPod.”

Whilst we at StrollOn completely agree, Greg, the point is at what extra cost? How much was this development going to cost passengers. As Travis Hudson says, “as long as it doesn’t increase the price of an airline ticket from an arm, to an arm and a leg” then we should all be happy with this development.

Just as a few people we beginning to get more excited about both the idea and the possibility of any associated price rise, PC World’s Jonny Evans uncovered evidence suggesting that the concept was not yet quite to everyone’s liking. Air France and KLM (representing France and Holland respectively – perhaps two of the world’s more stubborn nations) denied that definitive plans existed, claiming: “it is way too early to confirm any such details”. KLM went further, declaring that Apple’s claims were “premature” to the extent that “at this point in time we have absolutely no intention of introducing it on board”.

And what of Apple’s response? To put out the flames, the corporation brought in Tom Neumayr, who was positive about the chances of success having put the above issue down to “miscommunication”. He went on to draw attention to the other carriers and the fact that they had not yet denied anything, before mentioning that Apple expected more deals of this nature.

But this was all in 2006. What is the situation now, or has the concept died in its infancy?

Fast forward to 2008 and there have been some serious developments, according to an article on Opodo, 16th may 2008. Singapore Airlines have got in on the act, launching flights on 15th May between Singapore and Newark, offering iPhone and ipod connectivity via its KrisWorld entertainment system. At this stage it can only be used by those on the carrier’s all-business class flights between the two destinations and will be available on similar flights to LA come August.

Yap Kim Wah of Singapore Airlines observed that “this is yet another example of our philosophy of creating customer satisfaction by providing an enhanced sense of choice and control”. I look forward to what customers have to say about the experience, but admit that there is quite some reason to be positive at this stage. Especially when you read the particulars, as per Pocket Lint:

• Each seat will feature a 15.4 inch widescreen LCD screen, active noise-cancellation headphones and support for USB thumb drives so that the user can view holiday snaps with photo viewer or watch videos on media player.

• Any instructions over the intercom will temporarily freeze the system. The airline is not allowing use of the iPhone as a wireless communications device – it is only operable via the integrated in flight system, which charges the ipod at the same time.

Most recently, on 24th July, DealChecker.co.uk unearthed some more interesting developments. Having been one of the original six to supposedly agree to the deal over 2 years ago, United has become the first US airline to introduce ipod and iphone connectivity. But it was not midway through 2007. Clearly and unsurprisingly this has been a time consuming and expensive development.

On United, the service is aimed primarily at transatlantic routes at this stage, with the first flight offering the service flying from Washington DC to Zurich. It is reported that the airline does intend to refit its entire international fleet of wide-bod aircraft by 2010, suggesting that ipod and iphone connectivity will be available for everyone.

For now, it is clear that this “development will allow passengers in first and business class seats to play content from their devices” (Justtheflight.com). Well come on businessmen and women, roll up and download our new Sixty Minute City. We made it with you in mind and now you have the perfect opportunity to listen to the content and land at you destination informed and in control.

Come on, StrollOn...

Friday, August 1, 2008

Big News

And finally we StrollOn is approaching where we feel you, the user, want us to be. After a few months in production we are about to release our free city overviews. We have produced ones for London, Paris, Prague and Amsterdam and we are about to have all of them downloadable from our website.

These audio guides are about 20 minutes in length and divided into bitesize chapters, covering the History and culture of the city, where to eat, nightlife, pleasure and pastimes, what to do in an emergency, how to get around, money and shopping as well as detailed what you have to do before you leave. A lot of this information will be used in the introductory section of our next product, the "Sixty Minute City" which is still in production. As a result we would love you to download the free city overview and give us some feedback. Or another way of helping would be to fill in our questionnaire:

Click Here to take survey

It only takes about 5 minutes and it will help us in fine tuning both this product as well as the Sixty Minute City. So keep your wallet in your pocket and give it a go - something that you can do when sitting vacantly at your computer - and talk to us. It is ,after all, what we are all about.

until then, StrollOn...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Future of Audio Guides

Trawling through the internet, looking for comments on Audio Guides and the future of the industry I stumbled across the below, an article written on FTJ, The Family Travel Journal. The author highlights the trend currently taking over the travel publishing industry. The likes of Lonely Planet and Rough Guides are uncertain about the future of the 1,000 page guide of Western Europe? Is this too much information to have on you at any one time and is this the best way to access the necessary information? The result has been that "these publishers are starting to sell stand-alone chapters ready for download to a PDA or other text-friendly device."

The motivational force behind this trend is the increasing demand for convenience and customization. Travelers want site-specific information that can be easily stored and discretely used in bite-sized chunks. They want and expect to have access to relevant location specific information when they want, where they want. The author goes onto explain where this market need and expectation has come from: the worldwide web, modern technology and travel. This will enable the 21st century traveler to download site-specific information from the ether onto a mobile device where he can read or listen to it as he stands in front of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

The emphasis here is on "will" - "this will enable the traveler to download...information onto a mobile device". Sadly for you those of you without a Nokia N95 or iPhone you will struggle with this bit, the ability to download audio tracks straight onto a PDA or mobile device because you are unlikely to have free internet access. Unfortunately very few cities currently provide free wifi access and the mobile networks only really afford free internet access to people traveling within their home country. So, consumers, you need to be patient and wait for mobile networks to drop international roaming tariffs and open up web access, free of charge, to everyone. Or do we?

The signs are that handset manufacturers are willing to enter the audio-information arms race. If this is this case, this could halve the time that consumers have to wait until they can download and listen to location-specific information in situ. The information would be pre-loaded onto a your handset and uploaded onto a map of the city. Then, upon visiting the city you can use the map to guide you around, learning about the sites and attractions as you go.

But the fact remains that this is not yet available to the mainstream and certainly the information is not downloadable in audio format, allowing you to really experience the city sights around you. So in the meantime we would ask that you monitor StrollOn, follow our progress and give our "Sixty Minute City" a trial when we start selling it on the website within the next couple of weeks. We are using popular technology to provide you with important and entertaining information - technology that is meant to be plugged into your ears as you move around, unlike your PDA or mobile.



In the meantime, StrollOn...

StrollOn in Amsterdam

This page is for feedback and discussion on Amsterdam, the city, and StrollOn's coverage of it

StrollOn in Prague

This page is for feedback and discussion on Prague, the city, and StrollOn's coverage of it

StrollOn in London

This page is for feedback and discussion on London, the city, and StrollOn's coverage of it

StrollOn in Paris

This page is for feedback and discussion on Paris, the city, and StrollOn's coverage of it

Friday, July 4, 2008

StrollOn's First Press Release

StrollOn - a new way to experience old places



Welcome to StrollOn, an innovative producer of entertaining and professional audio city guides for your iPod.

21st century travel is dominated by the Internet, which offers a vast choice of information that all travellers want and need. At the same time, audio-entertainment is dominated by the 150 million iPods sold worldwide. When the two are brought together, you have a new way to experience old places.

StrollOn stands out in this fast developing industry for the quality of its content and production. We work with experienced guides, expert sound engineers and the best actors to bring each city’s stories and secrets to life. We aim to entertain as well as to inform. We produce our guides not only for tourists, but also for the locals wanting to see and hear more about their city.

When you visit our website at www.strollon.com, you will see the choice of city guides that you can download. Our library is expanding rapidly into other European cities and into other types of guide. We currently offer audio walks that take the listener away from the crowds, off the beaten track. We will soon be bringing out individual, stand-alone guides around each city’s major sights and there will be overviews of cities, giving visitors a chance to feel more like a local. All our products are easily downloadable onto your iPod, giving you a personalised tour that you control - you go when you want and you see what you want.


Notes to Editors:

StrollOn has focused on iPods because they are the most common and user-friendly MP3’s, but the city guides can be played on any MP3 including some mobiles
• At present, all StrollOn’s products are recorded in English. The company intends to make progress in this area.
StrollOn currently offers 6 audio tours in London and 2 audio walks in Paris for £4.99.
• The overviews and individual sight-specific guides for London and Paris are now complete and will be downloadable shortly and for free.
• On our blog, www.strollon.co.uk/blog, we offer commentary on StrollOn, its products and the industry, and welcome feedback and opinions on each.


For further information contact:

• Nicholas Craig Harvey: ncraigharvey@strollon.co.uk
• George Broke : gbroke@strollon.co.uk
• Telephone : 020 7340 9611

=====================================================================================


We released this, our first press release, earlier this week. After much tweaking and fine tuning we thought that this gave journalists and industry critics a good idea of what StrollOn is about. Currently, we are undergoing a period of change, both in terms of product range and destinations covered. We are expanding both and are really very excited about what we have managed to produce for your city sightseeing pleasure. We'd advise you to expect a few more releases over the coming weeks as the website changes to accommodate our new audio walks and audio city guides. We're looking forward to hearing what you have to say abou them so long as it's positive. If not, you still know where to come and slate us: here, to our faces...

...in the meantime, StrollOn...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

iTunes backs StrollOn. Sort of.

On 18th June I opened up a discussion as to where I thought that the industry was headed, that is the mp3 city guides industry. Click here for a more detailed and long-winded definition of the mp3 city guide industry. Already, after further exploration and investigation on the internet I have found some interesting development. These will undoubtedly excite the technophiles out there whilst striking fear into the heart of all you technophobes. My findings enable me to say this, that the travel industry is fast embracing all aspects of mobile technology.

Before I try to cover this in as brief and as interesting a way as possible, I would like to applaud one particular development on behalf of Apple and, more specifically, iTunes. After a good couple of years of striving for confirmation that the mp3 city guide industry does present another popular way of using an iPod, iTunes have actually said as much on their website. The boys from Cupertino, California have created a new section, ipodtours, where they have promoted the mp3 tours currently available for Chenonceau and Versailles in France, SFMOMA museum and Berlin's Jewish museum. Unsurprisingly the only other guide that they currently mention is the Disney Cruise Line iPod, which is preloaded with the relevant tours for your journey and ready to play. And more surprisingly they then supply an online guide on how to make a good a ipod tour.

Whisper it softly, but it looks like Apple are starting to agree with us, that the ipod lends itself to guiding and advising tourists and city visitors as well as it does to music listening. Have we turned a corner in professional and public perception? Well, certainly the professionals are beginning to value what we are doing and why, so it is now time to gain the trust of you, the disbelieving public. Over the course of the coming weeks, when we discuss several occurrences and changes within the industry, I am certain than you will start to have faith as well.

In the meantime, StrollOn...

Monday, June 23, 2008

A World of Audio guides, Walks and iPods

Hello and welcome to StrollOn


We are a new company, providing a recently developed product on our new website. We've set up this blog so that we can tell you all about us as you join us from our infancy. We don't want you to help us simply to become the biggest, but we do want you to help us become the best. So let's start at the beginning, with where we are right now.




What do we do?


Our aim is to bring popular technology, city sightseeing and walking together, serving them up in an interesting, amusing and accessible package. In short, we produce high quality Audio tours and Overviews of cities that you download onto your iPod or mp3 player. The rest is explained on our website, where you can find a full description of what we are and what we do.




Why do we do it?


We feel strongly that people can miss a lot from the experience of visiting and walking through a city. We want to give everyone a new view through their ears. And by everyone we mean you, your friends and family.




How do we do it?


With the help of professionals: guides, actors, actresses, designers and studio technicians. They are the finest that we can find and we look forward to introducing them to you over the coming months, as we allow you access to the production process with our behind the scenes tours and updates.




Who wants them?


We make them for everyone. They are not only for visitors - even residents enjoy them. Students, independent travelers, single people, families, people on business and holiday, the elderly, the young, the conventional and quirky. Whoever YOU are we look forward to meeting you.

In the meantime, StrollOn....

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

StrollOn - just you, me & an mp3

The New World of MP3 City Guides



When StrollOn went live in April, we were interested to note that, during the time in which we developed and produced our products, creating the current business, some 35 other MP3 City Guide companies had registered online, resulting in an industry that now constitutes some 50 companies in all. It is a growing industry, of that there can be no doubt, although it is equally clear that the concept has still not fully caught on, capturing the public's imagination and attention.



I came, I saw, iPod



This is just one of the many sorts of slogans that the industry has been using to date to try to capture the traveling public's attention. However, it does not exactly explain what is on offer. It is certainly clever, but perhaps a bit too glib and therefore not effective in explaining what MP3 City Guides are - what their purpose is. Many journalists feel that the purpose of audioguides, audiotours and audiowalks is to take over the guidebook market. They all make it clear that, at the current point in time, the MP3 City Guide industry is ill-equipped to do so for various reasons. One of the main reasons appears to be the public's inevitable cynicism towards new ideas and products and I would suggest that where the MP3 City Guide industry has gone wrong to date is that it has not offered a clear and concise explanation as to what it offers the individual user, when it should be used, by whom and for what reason. Ultimately, the Industry has not managed to successfully explain away the cynicism and nervous attention with which it has been greeted thus far.



At the London Book Fair, 2008



At the London Book Fair this year there was a tangible and obvious shift in how the Travel Publishing Industry views the "digitalisation" of travel related content, whereby information is relaid to the user in mp3 audio format, enjoyable on an iPod. There were several seminars on this matter accompanied by meetings of softly spoken men and women, trying to gauge what each other's companies were doing about adapting to a new age in the distribution and presentation of travel information. Some companies, such as Dorling Kindersley, were leading the way offering podcasts, but clearly this was not seen as the answer. And yet, in spite of all the furtive glances and clandestine activity during those three days in April, none of the Travel Publishing Industry's big boys - the likes of Rough Guides, Lonely Planet, AA, Berlitz and Dorling Kindersley - have subsequently acted upon this evident impulse. Clearly they do not feel that there is any "first mover advantage", most likely due to the fact that this requires explaining to the masses what this new concept actually is and where it is likely to lead.



MP3 City Guides - a new concept in travel



Except it isn't and this is exactly where I believe that mistakes have been made in the promotion of MP3 City Guides. It is merely a different way of producing and distributing an old, tried, trusted and popular concept in travel, the Travel Guide. It is more accessible and convenient, allowing the user to get more out of their surroundings precisely when they want to, using two senses as opposed to one to enjoy the sites of the city.

The convenience stems from the fact that you can buy and receive the information online and then all that is needed is the ability to download the mp3 files to an iPod or other mp3 player. And since over 6 million members of the British adult population owned an iPod in early 2007, according to BMRB research, which amounted to 40% of the entire MP3 market, this last stage should not be a problem for many.

And the idea of two senses versus one stems from the fact that, by listening to city specific information, the user is able to concentrate fully on looking around themselves as opposed to reading from a page.

Ultimately then, the current concept is to make your ipod your "Guide Pod". Nowadays, when businessmen go abroad, the third item of technology that they allegedly pack, after their Laptops and Blackberries, are their iPods. With leisure travelers you can remove Laptops and Blackberries from the list. The idea is simple then: to utilise what you already have in your pocket to help you get more out of the city in which you are living, staying and walking.



The Future of "Guide Pods" and MP3 City Guides



There is no doubt that the idea of audio city-specific information will continue to grow in the coming years. In early 2007 8 million UK residents regularly downloaded and/or listened to podcasts, whilst museum and gallery audioguide producers such as Antenna are producing more and more content for growing client lists. But will the iPod and MP3 player still be key in how the information is presented and received? This is unlikely with the evolution of the mobile phone and PDA. Networks providers and handset producers are both seeking ways to improve their products, making them yet more indespensable to the average user. One way in which this will happen is by enabling the user to know not only where they are at any given time, with the help of mapping devices and GPS, but also to understand what attractions, features, sites and opportunities exist around them. The city will become more interactive and our aim is to ensure that not all the content is commercial and promotional, but also cultural, amusing and memorable.



So where does this leave StrollOn, MP3 City Guides, the Travel Industry and you, the potential user?



It leaves us all in the same place, at various points along a learning curve, trying to decide with which forms of new travel technology and media of travel information distribution should we acquaint ourselves and when. At the moment this continues to be the computer and internet, but soon it will be the mobile phone or PDA. In the meantime, StrollOn is using popular, widely available and easy-to-use technology to make city sightseeing into the most accessible, interactive and enjoyable experience that readily available modern technology allows. The revolution in travel information distribution and presentation is well underway; it is time that we all started to embrace the change. The Guidebook is dead; long live the GuidePod.

In the meantime, StrollOn...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Quick Explanation

In the last post I mentioned the term "City Stroller". This is something that we believe that every city dweller and visitor should aspire to be. "City Stroller" is a positive term, ( which is why we have chosen it as our signature), meaning one who chooses walking as their preferred method to see and travel within a city. Whilst we acknowledge that there are many other ways of seeing a city, from hot air balloons and helicopters, to river cruises and sewer tours, we also feel that using your own two feet buys you the most time to enjoy what you want to enjoy, when you want to enjoy it, with no hassle and hold ups, and no expense. Those who work out and hug trees might like to add that the act of walking does help to keep you fit and reduce carbon emissions. Indeed it was Giles Coran who, when spending a week leading a 70s lifestyle, recently said that they were able to gobble up vast quantities of sherbet fountains and trifle because the average 1970s employee spent at least half an hour a day walking to work.

So going by foot is the best way to make your way around a city, sightseeing as you go. Or at least we firmly believe so, which is why we have developed these mp3 city guides. All we can hope is that you agree, which requires you to give our products a go. At the moment they are £4.99, but our new range of audioguides and mp3 city guides will be available for free in a couple of weeks. In this case "credit crunch" will be no excuse and we look forward to your views and opinions on what we have produced so far, and whether walking is the best way to go sightseeing in a city like London.

In the meantime, StrollOn...

StrollOn's cloud does have a silver lining

As you can well imagine, events on Sunday night helped to create a special bond between the people of the Czech Republic and the team here at StrollOn. Two-nil up with 15 minutes to go and I for one thought that it was all just clicking into place nicely. As I had predicted. But as it turned out, I was not the only one who prematurely started to believe that the Czechs were through to the quarter finals as the clock struck 21.15 on Sunday, 15th June, 2008. And so it was that, by 21.30 the whole Czech team were of Euro 2008. StrollOn and Prague were in mourning, stunned at the denouement of a fantastic football match. I was left standing in my sitting room, walking from corner to corner for a while before I started to stroll aimlessly around the house. (I simply had to leave the sitting room after my father asked me what had happened to the Czechoslovakians).

I was angry and confused, for I have never before seen a group of professional athletes fall apart so comprehensibly than I did two nights ago. They did what I thought was uniquely British as, having become complacent, they lost their shape and their mental cohesion, giving away three goals in the process. I was not able to write this post yesterday because I was still in shock. Today I remain in shock, however physically I have recovered, regaining my sensory faculties.

So here I am writing, aware that there are worse things that have happened to humankind in the last 48 hours. And with this sense of perspective firmly in place I can say that StrollOn's cloud does indeed have a silver lining. I wrote last week that the main reason for our wanting the European cup to go back to the Czech Republic was the fact that we are currently producing our audioguides and walks for Prague. I thought that it would be more vibrant, as their would be a celebratory atmosphere upon visiting the Czech capital, but I had not factored into account that that would have the made it an undesirable place to visit and explore by foot, walking the streets and alleys of the old town. Instead it will be relatively empty; the economy will continue to struggle against the pound, with no recently enhanced nationalistic feel good factor to encourage investment; and their will be a tangible bond between the British and Czechs as none of our respective countries made any impact at the finals. So Prague remains one of our top tips for the summer, for sightseers, romantic mini breakers and city strollers alike.

I am now off to review the situation before deciding to whom StrollOn will lend her support for the rest of the tournament.

In the meantime, StrollOn...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Walk about with StrollOn

Whilst Euro 2008 and the Summer Test series against South Africa may create a few sporting widows in the coming months and the music festivals make take club 18-30 off camping days for weekends on end, there are many things on offer in and around London for those left behind and not looking to head off abroad.

Acknowledging this fact James Bidwell of Visit London recently lent his support to 'Walk London", saying that "one third of the capital is green space and from iconic attractions to hidden gems and the best way to discover London is on foot".

Now of course we at StrollOn are keen to promote walking around London , however the only way to see the city is not by strolling around the streets, headphones in ears, down at ground level. There is another way which is causing a gentle stir out west.

At the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the boys have created a walkway that "takes you under the ground and then 18 metres (59ft) up in the air, bringing you close to trees in a way that will take your breath away". (But don't worry, one imagines that you will promptly get it back, assuming that photosynthesis is still the norm). By the looks of things there is no need to book in advance and the experience does not cost anything over and above the regular price of entry into the Gardens.

So if you want to get out of the city centre over the coming weeks and exercise those legs, then the treetop walkway might be the choice for you. If not, then let us know what you'd rather enter into the diary. In the meantime we will have a snoop around and post our top tips for enjoying London in the summer over the coming days.

Until next time, StrollOn...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

We're not a betting lot at StrollOn

Which is fortunate, as I've just found out that the Czechs lost 3-1 to Portugal.

Sad news - time to StrollOn...

StrollOn supports Euro 2008

Who are StrollOn supporting in Euro 2008?



Clearly this is the question that you're all wanting answered, in the embarrassing absence of a home nation in this years European Football Finals. So, you'll be pleased to read that we have taken our time, done our research and formulated some solid conclusions.



So what conclusions did we reach?



Well, as we are now firmly into the British summer (a fact, whether you like it or not), we have kept one eye on the football and one eye on the Pound, with a view to making the latter go the furthest when on holiday on the continent. Back on 27th May, the London Paper ran an article in their travel section called "zone out the exchange rates". In the article Poorna Shetty acknowledged that, with the pound getting a thrashing at the moment, there was a need to look outside of the Eurozone. And we have taken her advice and done exactly that. The non-eurozone european nations are at present:

Sweden
Denmark
England
Scotland
Wales
Hungary
The Czech Republic
Slovakia
Poland
Russia
Turkey and
Croatia

Of these teams 6 are represented this summer in Austria and Switzerland, being: Sweden, The Czech Republic, Poland, Russia, Turkey and Croatia. And, as you may have noticed, we have bided our time, waiting for the first round of matches to be played. The result is that we have now had a chance to eye up all of the non-eurozone challengers, the countries that offer the British the best deals abroad.

Only Sweden, The Czech Republic and Croatia managed a win in the first round ties, so we thought it best to stick with those that have gained first mover advantage. But what do these countries offer in terms of city attractions to the traveling Brit?



Sweden



Sweden, my personal favourite for a variety of reasons, offers the ever popular Stockholm, the vibrant and youthful Malmo and, on its western border, the culturally attractive Gothenburg.



The Czech Republic



The Czechs offer the visitor their Medieval citadel of Prague, which is the weekender's dream and the native's cultural, economic and political heartbeat.



Croatia



Croatia offers the first time visitor some incredibly beautiful spots, from the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Split and Dubrovnik on the Mediterranean coast to the capital, Zagreb.




Which means that StrollOn is supporting...



...Croatia, you would have thought. They have recent history on their side, performing well in the last few internaitonal tournaments; they have a confidence imbued into them by their young and ambitious manager, Slaven Bilic; they had a poor first outing against Austria and are therefore nowhere near peaking prematurely; they have not lost any key players in the immediate build up to or during the early stages of the tournament and they have a good, settled blend of youth and experience.

However, I reiterate "you would have thought".

Because we at StrollOn would actually rather the Cup go back with Karel Bruckner and his team to the Czech Republic. Our motives are selfish and not one borne out of logic, insider information or inclination. We hope that the winning team are the Czechs because, by the end of July we are hoping to release our Prague audiotours and guides and think that, on the back of the national team's success in Vienna on June 29th, Prague will be a fantastic place to visit for sometime thenafter.

Couple this with the strong pound (£10 can buy you 317 koruny) and I'm sure that you want to agree with us. So come on the Czech Republic,come on you reds, make it a summer for us all to remember - at least those that choose to visit Prague with a StrollOn walking tour!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Don't mention the War

As I tried to get home from the Globe last night, and then found myself still doing so some 45 minutes later, I wondered why. Why, at 11 o'clock on a Thursday evening, can't I just get home. And this morning I found out from why this was, courtesy of Annie Mole at her London Underground blog. For those of you that are not a great fan of getting around London on foot, this site does keep you up-to-date with all the news, views and reviews of our world infamous Underground system:

"Tube closures due to WW2 Unexploded Bomb Disposal:

Work to make a suspected World World Two unexploded bomb safe, has over run for antother day now, so expect to see delays in the Bromley By Bow area.

Once again the Hammersmith & City Line is suspended between Whitechapel & Barking and the District Line between Whitechapel and Plaistow. The bomb was found in a river at Sugar House Lane, near Bromley-by-Bow London Underground station, at about 1151 BST on Monday. The immediate area was evacuated following the discovery of the bomb.

A Police spokesperson said initially that cordons would be in place for three days and there are restrictions along the River Lee navigation from Bow Locks to Old Ford Locks...all of which prompted us to wonder, out of idle interest, just how many UXBs remain buried in London to this day and stumbled across this list of known locations from 1996 although it should be noted that some of these 'may by now have been dug-up and neutralised'.

It's a good question and all the more reason for remaining overground this weekend. Don't take the tube the the risk is high and the sunlight low, get on your feet and remind yourself what it is to see and discover your and my favourite city. And if you do want to stick to the tube routes whilst moving overground you can, rather bizarrely, by following the instructions given to you by the boys from the London Photo Project.

Stand up, step out and StrollOn...

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Wikipedia in you ears

Not one to shy away from warmth and sunlight, I decided to take an hour off for lunch today. I wasn't, however, set for one big picnic in the park; I was due to meet up with an old friend of the family. She's a fascinating woman, full of ideas, who has successfully set up several companies and still seeks to initiate new and occasionally absurd ventures. The point is that, although amusing company, she is open minded, observant and incisive. She is able quickly to grasp a new concept and then outline its pros and cons as she is able to see it. And she is always able to "see it". 


So when I explained to her the concept behind MP3 and iPod audioguides she was quick on uptake. Using her own experiences in travel and technology she wanted to know what it was that StrollOn was. Not what did we do, but what we were. After a tiring and longwinded explanation from my part she then clicked into action: "Oh", she blurted, "so it's like Wikipedia but in your ears". My memories of the rest of lunch fades into cheesecake and goodbyes, as from that point on I couldn't stop thinking about the idea of an "audio-wikipedia". 

Was this what we wanted to be? Was this a product that people would consider useful, amusing, intriguing and enlightening? Was this what we were and indeed, if so, what we should continue to be? And on further reflection I would be inclined to say yes, it would be good to be considered an audio-referencing tool as well as a guide; something that you can dip into whenever confronted by something that you feel needs further explanation when strolling around a city. In order to be able to dip into the guides they need to be available in short, bite-sized chapters, using simple, clear and memorable descriptions. You want to better and easier understand what is going on about you, or at least that is why I use Wikipedia. 

However, maybe you have alternative reasons for using Wikipedia - ones that aren't immediately obvious to me! Maybe you feel that the idea of audioguides is to give the user a much more in depth and detailed structured analysis of all that surrounds him/her. In each case let us know: at what level would you seek to better understand and appreciate a city such as London with an iPod at your disposal?

In the meantime, StrollOn...

 


Why We're Blogging

Now we believe that we produce an experience to remember and we want to remain the best. If you listen to our "audiosamples" you will understand why we are here on this blog: we want your advice, your opinions and your ideas. So please tell us if you like what we do and let us know when you hate it. We would appreciate it if you gave us all the feedback that you can muster, work, commitments and studies permitting. 


And don't stop (or even necessarily start) here. Let us know what you are doing. Send in ideas, photos, videos, jokes, comments, criticisms, what gives you pleasure and what gives you pain. In return we promise that we will keep you up-to-date with what we are doing, our aspirations, our achievements and our insights. With the latter you may agree or you may disagree, so let's discuss it all and see what we can both gain from the experience.

In the meantime, and until our next post, StrollOn...

A World of Audio guides, Walks and iPods


About StrollOn

Hello and welcome to StrollOn, where we produce audio guides and audio tours of London, Paris and an ever-expanding list of major european cities. We have also developed our free city overviews and "Hot spots" (individual audio commentaries for individual sights and attractions). Whichever product interests you we simply ask that you select the relevant audio guide or audio tour on our website and download the mp3 files onto your iPod or other mp3 player, thereby turning your iPod into your "GuidePod".

As you will see from the this blog, we are a new company, providing recently developed products on our website. We've set up this blog so that we can tell you all about us as you join us from our infancy. And we are actively looking for feedback, both on the website and the blog. We don't want you to help us simply to become the biggest, but we do want you to help us become the best walking audio tours company.