News & Announcements

Don was honored alongside Tina Fey at the New York Stage and Film’s annual gala on Dec. 5 at Pier 60, with the organization’s artistic director crediting Don with “providing vital support for playwrights through Audible’s recent expansion into the theater world.”

Actress Dana Delany said in introducing Don at the gala, “He basically has created an entire new industry for writers and actors. … It’s not just stars that are doing it — yes, they have big stars doing it — but it’s working actors that are doing it.”

Read HuffPost for more.

Don spoke at the ribbon-cutting for Barcade, across the street from Audible’s headquarters, along with Mayor Ras Baraka and others. Don said the bar and arcade, already a hit with Audible employees, is one of the many exciting new places to play coming on line in in the Washington Park District, which is turning into a 24-7 neighborhood with new places to live and play.

Read Patch for the story.

Celebrating 20 years since the launch of the Audible service and 10 years of being headquartered in Newark, Audible is providing all 15,000 or so Newark high school students and teachers a year of Audible membership, more than 150 titles identified by Newark educators and Audible experts, a Fire 7-inch tablet and headphones.

“Audible is a better company and a better place to work because of our decision to move to Newark ten years ago and include so many Newark high school and college students and Newark-born and educated people as our paid interns and employees,” Don said in the news release. “As our interns who get free access to Audible memberships already know, students, parents, and teachers consistently tell us how powerfully listening to Audible has made a difference – whether it engenders a lasting love of stories, builds active vocabulary, helps with academics, or simply allows people to fit more books into their lives.”

The initiative, called Project Listen Up, launched with a special event at Technology High School in the North Ward on Nov. 29. Read about the event and view photos in ROI-NJ.

 

Don received the inaugural Founders Award at NJPAC’s 20-year anniversary celebration for his commitment to Newark’s revitalization, including moving Audible to the city in 2007 and launching Newark Venture Partners to catalyze the city’s tech ecosystem.

Don was introduced by NJPAC’s founding chair and philanthropist Ray Chambers before more than 1,000 guests at the gala in late September. In his speech, Don urged the audience to move their companies to Newark, back local businesses or invest in NVP.

“I continually celebrate moving Audible to Newark ten years ago as one of the best decisions we made as a company — over a history that included many near-death experiences early on, to today’s reality of a level of growth at scale that has exceeded my dreams,” Don said. “We came here hoping to find out what a company can mean in ways that can transcend what it does.”

Read more about the event on NJPAC’s website.

Elisabeth Moss performed a passage from Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” at Toronto’s Union Station last week to mark the launch of audible.ca, Audible’s dedicated service for Canadians that elevates Canadian voices and listeners.

“We’ll be working with Canada’s incredibly vibrant Can-Lit community,” Don said. “We work daily to support the professional creative class wherever we go.”

The website offers a selection of more than 300,000 titles, including more than 100 new titles from Canadian authors in English and French. For one month, Canadian listeners are receiving free access to Audible’s special edition of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” narrated by Claire Danes and including material Atwood wrote exclusively for Audible, and Catherine Leroux’s Quebecois novel “Le Mur Mitoyen,” performed by Julie Le Breton.

“Audible is giving performers opportunities to lend their voices to some of the greatest stories in the world and expose the ideas and words of authors to entirely new audiences,” Moss said.

The launch also included an event at Montreal’s Gare Centrale, where Le Breton read from Leroux’s book.

Read more in CBC News.

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.