Photo via Wikipedia

Thanks to the internet, there are plenty of ways to maintain a steady income from your couch. Perhaps none are so ironic as recording a walking tour, and thus contributing to others’ mobility while staying decidedly stationary.

VoiceMap is “a publishing platform for immersive, location-aware audio experiences,” founded by the alluringly accented Iain Manley, a South African journalist inspired by his extensive travels to create the “storytelling startup.” The concept –locals recording stories for the benefit of those who don’t know the area as well – is so simple it’s almost difficult to grasp for some of us native stoop grandpas who’ve lived in this city long enough to immediately see flashes of Times Square hordes when we hear the word “tour”. In fact, however, our stories and area neighborhood knowledge has not just worth but the ability to churn a profit.

On the one hand, the idea of recording a walking tour with all your local haunts and secrets to sell on a royalty basis to the masses may seem a little soul-sucking, but then cash is cash and it feels good to create a recording and mapping, for posterity and the uninitiated, of all your favorite spots. Besides, it’s a good platform to get across to whoever may tune in your personal feelings about how your area has changed, how your area has worsened or improved in the time you’ve lived there or any sites you feel deserve more attention than they typically get. Blabbing on social media about your woes is one thing, but for those who bother listening and walking to your words, it’s a far more influential soap box to hop on.

Over the phone, Manley described his goal for VoicMap as replicating his experience of finding people who could “take you under their wing and show you a particular city.” In his travels, he met people who “had such memories of this road, or they had particular hopes for their neighborhoods,” and their passion came through as they showed him around.

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A screenshot of the route-making page on VoiceMap
A screenshot of the route-making page on VoiceMap

How the tours work

To make a tour, you create a VoiceMap account on their website, then go to the “create” bookmark and pick how people will experience your tour (walk, bike, BOAT RIDE booyah water tour) name your tour, and set a price ($1.99 to $9.99). Then you use nodes to demarcate the places you plan to talk about in your tour and write blurbs about each spot. An editor will be assigned to you (a privilege many bloggers are not allotted) to help you through the process, and by the end you will have recorded a tour properly timed so that someone walking the route you designated will have enough time to walk to the next feature on the route between you talking.

The revenue from the tours is split 50/50 between you and VoiceMap (after processing fees). It’s an open platform, so anyone can record a tour, but in Manely’s words the editor does serve as something of a “gatekeeper as well as the guide.” According to Manley, VoiceMap has never had to reject a half-assed tour; tours fail because the tour creator drifts off.

It’s far easier than ranting on top of a double decker rushing through Times Square and, the internet being the internet, it has the potential to reach the same number of people.

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