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.