News & Announcements

Fast Company ran a profile of Don titled, “How Audible’s CEO Is Working To Lift Up The City Around The Company’s Office.”

The piece highlights the ways Audible is betting on Newark, taking on paid interns from Newark schools, supporting Newark Venture Partners to catalyze the city’s tech ecosystem by bringing in early-stage companies and paying a year’s rent for employees who moved to the recently developed Hahne building, a 10-minute walk from Audible’s headquarters.

Katz has gone from studying companies and cultures to building a culture of “activating caring” within Audible along with the city where they are based. As he explains, their work stems from “a core belief that companies can have hearts and souls and missions that transcend financial success.” It is this value that he is now looking to document and share with other CEOs around the country and world. “If other CEOs grab the model, it would be a tremendous legacy.”

In a July 3 interview on “Bloomberg Surveillance,” Don talks about the influence the novelist Ralph Ellison had on his career, what makes for a good audiobook and Audible’s push to create original content.

Don also discusses Audible’s Newark mission, which includes bringing on paid high school interns from Newark, planting early-stage companies in the city through Newark Venture Partners and encouraging Audible employees to live in Newark.

“When we position a book as a script, you see these great actors doing what they do to create these nuanced performances,” Don said. “But the key thing is the seductive intimacy of being read to personally.”

The interview with Don begins at the 31:55 mark.

Audible has announced a new $5 million fund to commission works from playwrights around the globe to be heard, further elevating the company’s focus on supporting the professional creative class of actors and writers, serving its millions of listeners and applying the best of emergent digital technologies.

The New York Times reports:

Grant recipients will be recommended by an advisory board made up of theater industry insiders: the actress Annette Bening (“20th Century Women”); the award-winning playwrights Lynn Nottage (“Sweat”), Tom Stoppard (“The Coast of Utopia”) and David Henry Hwang (“M. Butterfly”); the directors Trip Cullman (“Six Degrees of Separation”) and Leigh Silverman (“Violet”); and two artistic directors of Off Broadway companies, Oskar Eustis of the Public Theater, and Mimi O’Donnell of Labyrinth Theater Company.

Mr. Katz said he hoped that Audible’s format would help widen the reach of emerging playwrights, who might otherwise be writing for Off (or even Off Off) Broadway theaters.

“To celebrate live performance in the theater is one thing, but think of professional sports,” Mr. Katz said. “There’s the game, but it’s also being projected to millions of other people in a really powerful way.”

Audible’s new program to encourage employees to move to Newark — an element of the company’s mission to work, live, serve and play in the city and contribute to its turnaround — was covered in The New York Times.

Would you live in Newark if your boss paid your rent for a year?

That was the question that Audible.com, the audiobook company, posed to its workers when it announced a housing lottery in January. The 20 winning employees would get $2,000 a month in free rent for a year if they signed a two-year lease at the newly restored Hahne & Company building in downtown Newark, a 10-minute walk from Audible’s headquarters.

Of about 1,000 employees in the company’s Newark and Jersey City offices, 64 applied. In March, the company, which has 16 global locations, expanded the offer, pledging a $250 monthly rent stipend for a year to any employee who lives in, or moves to, Newark. More than two dozen employees have taken advantage of that offer.

The rental program was also featured in NPR’s “All Things Considered,” with host Robert Siegel saying, “Katz started the revolution in modern mobile listening and then did something equally radical. He moved his company from a leafy New Jersey suburb to Newark.”

At the Milken Institute Global Conference, Don sat down with CNBC’s Brian Sullivan to talk about how Audible has elevated the power of the spoken word, the importance of formative battles to a company’s success and how Newark Venture Partners fits into Audible’s activist mission in accelerating Newark’s comeback.

Don was also asked what advice he’d give to entrepreneurs:

I’m really lucky because I got to turn ideas into reality through two significant careers, one as a writer and now with Audible. And now with trying to be a catalyst: the company Audible is a catalyst in turning Newark around. And I think the learning is basically that you work backwards from a big dream and you celebrate the steps in that direction, and you don’t give up. … And I think the other thing is you just gotta be at the edge of science and culture, and studying and learning everyday to just see what’s coming.

Watch the interview here.

Newark Venture Partners, the venture capital fund and accelerator Don founded, recently welcomed its second class of entrepreneurs with exciting, distinctive businesses covering a range of sectors.

More than 70 founders and employees are now working in the 25,000-square-foot ultra-bandwidth accelerator on the seventh floor of the building Audible shares with Rutgers Business School. And 260 Audible employees with advanced skills across dozens of subject domains are on call to take the elevator down to coach the companies.

The first two classes have attracted more than 1,000 applications from across the country — including the Bay Area, Raleigh, N.C. and Washington, D.C. — and even London. NVP is focused on bringing early-stage companies to Newark to catalyze the city’s tech ecosystem and create jobs and taxable revenue.

One of the new companies, Envested, which engages employees by connecting them to volunteer opportunities, was recently named in Inc.’s “30 Under 30.”

Don’s book on Nike, “Just Do It,” offers an inside look at what was the most powerful force in sports, its reclusive, irreverent founder, Phil Knight, and the special rituals and practices that projected the Nike brand into the world.

Here’s Don’s introduction to the book:

The book, performed by the talented actor Brian Sutherland, is available for download here.

Along the Nike trail I met line workers gluing shoes together in one of the thousands of factories rising from the dust by the week in Southern China. I spent time with inner-city retailers in Newark, N.J., mall store proprietors in California, and retailers in running stores all over the country. I met hundreds of Nike customers who regard stores bearing Nikes as museums or churches. I talked basketball, baseball, and tennis with various Nike sports heroes—Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson, Charles Barkley, Andre Agassi, and Alonzo Mourning were all particularly helpful—and I got to know a great many Nike employees, most of whom, at first, thought I would never “get it,” because they thought others who’d tried to describe Nike’s separate way of life had failed.

After many months of observation and travel, I came to see that Nike is at once a state of mind and an intricate network connecting far-flung economic nodes.

 

During the Academy Awards, Audible ran ads — featuring Claire Danes, Zachary Quinto, Alan Cumming, Mike Colter and others — that convey the company’s celebration of the nuanced performances of well-composed words.

The February cover of Urban Agenda Magazine

An interview with Don is the cover story of the February 2017 issue of Urban Agenda Magazine. Don talks about his writing career, the founding of Audible, how Audible has worked to position great novels as scripts and his long-held commitment to Newark.

Many elements that make Audible a distinctive company that in many ways has a higher purpose draw upon the many things I learned and experienced as a writer. At its best, Audible is imbued with the élan I experienced during Rolling Stone’s first decade, a sensibility derived from the act of imprinting the culture with a new level of truth-telling and literary style.

Audible moved to Newark and services customers in pursuit of defining ourselves based on what a company can mean versus what it does alone, and this I also took away from my years studying organizations and their larger purposes.

Below is a note Don shared with Audible’s global employees about the executive order on immigration.

 

From: Katz, Don
Sent: Sunday, January 29, 2017 10:37 AM
To: Audible_Global
Subject: Immigration

Gang,

In light of Friday’s deeply upsetting executive order and yesterday’s fallout, I want to reiterate Audible’s unwavering support of all of our employees and also urge any employee who is directly impacted by this action or who otherwise feels at risk to reach out to me personally or Anne Erni, our Chief People Officer, so that we can help.

This executive order and its heartless assault on the democratic principles and historical forces that have defined the best of the United States are evocations of the dark fear and anger I wrote about in my allofus note after the US elections. You may recall I also wrote that at Audible “we will not tolerate a sensibility internally that diminishes anyone who works here because of who he or she is — from where someone comes from to who someone chooses to love — and we will also stand behind any employee whose civil rights or dignity is challenged from outside Audible in any way we can.”

Courageous moral leadership persists against the cruelty and irrational shunning on a global scale. I was struck by this note from the new archbishop in Newark, and I thought I’d share this along with this request to get in touch with us if you need help.

http://www.rcan.org/statement-cardinal-joseph-w-tobin-cssr-wednesday%E2%80%99s-executive-actions-immigration

Don