Friends & Fiction
Friends & Fiction

Episode · 4 months ago

WB-S2E14 Audible Originals, Part 2

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

WRITERS' BLOCK Ron Block and Patti Callahan Henry talk with Don Katz, founder of Audible, Inc about Audible Originals and so much more!

This show is brought to you by our presenting sponsor, Charleston Coffee Roasters. Charleston coffee roasters painstakingly searches the world over for the highest quality coffee beans. They bring them home to Charleston, South Carolina, where slow roasting coaxes out their unique flavor. Along with their promise of great coffee, Charleston Coffee Roasters also pledges to help our planet and local communities. Globally, they support sustainable farming practices. Locally, they partner with the South Carolina seed Turtle Rescue Program Visit Their website, Charleston Coffee Roasterscom, and use the code coffee with friends, all lowercase, all one word, to get twenty percent off on all bagged coffees. I was part of a culture at rolling stone that we knew we were imprinting. The culture was something new. Were the new voice and that I used to call it a lawn. You know that sensibility was actually something I took away when audible started, that if we could be, as you know, positively disruptive, using modern language as we could, and give new voices and new opportunities to artists of all types and the like, that there's there won't be a better place to work. Welcome to the friends and fiction writers block podcast. For New York Times Best Selling Authors, one rock star Librarian and endless stories. Join Mary K Andrews Kristin Harmel, Christy Woodson Harvey and Patty Callahan Henry, along with Ron Block. As novelists. We are for longtime friends, with seventy books between us, and I am Ron Block. Please join us for fascinating author interviews and insider talk about publishing and writing. If you love books and are curious about the writing world, you are in the right place. Welcome to the friends and fiction writers block podcast. This is part two of our fascinating and deep dive into the world of audible originals. In Part One, who spoke with Kathy Murray and Martha Hall Kelly about their coauthor experience on the audible original and Munich cowboy cheerleaders. Go back and check that out if you missed it. It was so good. I personally was so surprised to hear about the racism within that cheerleading world. Today we are thrilled to talk with Don Kats, whose own amazing career, beginning at the Rolling Stones Mag Zine led to becoming the founder and initial CEO of audible. For he founded audible, Don was a journalist and author for twenty years. He wrote five books and served as a contributing editor at rolling stone and many other publications. His work when a National Magazine Award and was nominated for a national book critics Circle Award. Cats graduated from New York University in one thousand nine hundred and seventy four, where he studied with novelist Ralph Ellison. We are going to talk about that in just a minute. He then went on to pursue graduate studies at the London School of Economics, where he was awarded a Master of science. He founded audible in one thousand nine hundred and ninety five, and that, our listeners, is what we are here to talk about today. Headquartered in Newark, New Jersey, since two thousand and seven, audible serves millions of listeners and offers over seven hundred thousand, probably even more by the end of this interview, downloadable audible originals,...

...audio books, audio editions of periodicals and other programs. Last month, Pan America announced that Don was the business visionary honoree for its two thousand and twenty two literary gala. There is so much to talk to Don about, so let's get started talking to him instead of about him. Welcome, done, welcome. Well, thank you, Patty and thank you Ron, and so exciting to be here. Thanks, thanks for joining us. Son The writer's black all right, before we dive into audible, I want to talk about your first life, your writing life. I think it gives you such a unique perspective on the storytelling world. You started writing for rolling stone when you were, I think, twenty three years old. Is that right? Right, yeah, wow, it's a time you talk about as the new journalism. So tell us about that before we jump into audible. Well, so much to say. I you know, I I actually was one of those kind of English majors who always dreamed of being a writer, but coming from a part of Chicago where nobody's father was a writer, I never really thought I could do it and, and you know, Long Story Short, I thought I needed to do something beyond my love of words and literature and the sound of books. I was always one of those slow readers who would hear the music and the language. I wasn't and I think a lot of people are became pretty good pro stylists, and petty might have a view on this, are actually pretty slow readers. Yeah, and so I ended up going to the Land School of Economics thinking I would, you know, stay out of the Vietnam War and also, you know, do something other than law school, which was kind of the default for people in my generation when you didn't know what to do. And Somehow, through the combination of it and just the luck of having a friend who would take me to rock concerts, I ended up meeting a rolling stone writer who listened to what I had to say about up what was going on in the world, particularly in Europe, and the wars of liberation and the things that I knew something about in, you know, in both Europe and Africa. Said you should really write a letter to this guy at rolling stone and the one way or another, I get a telegram, something I'd have to tell many, many of my employees, Lelone my, you know, my children, grandchildren, about that. said go to Spain and you could cover the end of Franco for rolling stone. And without any real student journalism, I've went and I kind of learned to be a journalist over the months that Franco took to die and covered it from the bosque underground perspective of the eighth the nationalists, who I happened to know some of just through the way I'd spent my time and and it ended up being published without much editing and it was published with my name on the cover and I remember going into the head of all in the school economics that I think I'm going to go do this and I left my PhD program and I started and then I immediately was asked to write for the new republic, which, again, your listeners probably don't realize how how heavyweight I journal like the New Republic was in those days, in the mid S. So I kind of had to decide eventually between this kind of new mode of novelistic storytelling, of truth telling, which which we saw as rolling stone writers, as truth telling in the face of what mainstream newspapers and television journalism we're saying. I mean there's a lot of evidence of the time that it's it wasn't a glory time either on reporting on race or or the reality of equality around the world and other kinds of things that we really thought we were kind of doing a morally superior job of telling the truth and we got and we got to do it in a way that really allowed the reader to feel like they were understanding, as I always used to do. What does it mean to be willing to die for a cause? What does it mean to be, you...

...know, to be be part of this, like why was it that the police force in Houston was out of control on a level of, you know, actual racism against Latinos, and we're actually covering up, you know, the murder of Latino men and things like that? So we were, you know, we were doing investigations, but we were humanizing it in a particular way. I loved it and said ally, and I was such a I mean I used to. It's a joke, but I used to avoid the editors when they came to London. I always made beyond Simon because I was one of those kids who looked like was twelve when I was twenty four, twenty three, and so I thought they wouldn't take me seriously and I would go off again and, you know, and run around. But I ran around both people who became you know, you know, the Red Brigade, for instance. I covered the autonomy Operai, which was before it split and when underground and they, you know, they actually murdered all the Morow and I cover Northern Ireland. I was in you know, in Somalia and the Theopian Revolution. So it was it was quite an adventurous and exciting, you know, time of my life. But the what's interesting is that the I was part of a culture, that rolling stone that we knew we were imprinting. The culture was something new. We were a new voice and that I used to call it a loan. You know, that sensibility was actually something I took away when audible started it if we could be, as you know, positively disruptive, using modern language as we could, and give new voices and new opportunities to artists of all types and the like, that there's there won't be a better place to work and that, you know, that was kind of my baseline on my best experience of organization life, which is challenging now that audible so gigantic, but it's it's still a vision of the possible and and you called it new journalism then. And one of the interesting things, and we're going to get into it in a minute when we talk about disruption, is that it was longer. Right when we read these articles back then they were fifteen thousand words, twentyzero words instead of one fifteen hundred words, like are quick reads today, and I like seeing some of that come back with some of the things you're doing. Yeah, I think it is to some extent. I mean it is really interesting, even the the the reborn rolling stone, which we I always thought, which should grow up to be the feature magazine of the Baby Wood Generation, because we've kind of saw the New Yorker as Waspan's dodging, you know, had and not particularly risky and the like. So it is there is a lot of opportunity to bring it back. But you know, one of the things that caused me to put up as many people thought of a perfectly successful writing life aside to do audible was the truth was people think I saw the Internet coming or whatever. You know, the magazine business was going to struggle. It was actually all about length that I I was I wasn't able to do twelve and anymore and anywhere because of the Ad Model made the magazine's thinner and you know, I got back and forth people something that podcasting industry doesn't yet understand, that they had models are cyclical and so and then we go down to ten and then I go to eight thousand words, and then it was when Tina Brown came in with anity fair. My My per word number went off the charts and it's like, you know, I was like making forty Fiftyzero do an article, which was pretty good by any standards, but I only could write five thousand words and you couldn't turn the corners and create the characters. And then it started going down to thirty five hundred and then I realized, even though I had books in my life, that this was going in a direction that opened up the opportunity that I should do something else, because my books were quite lock. I mean my first book was over six hundred pages long and my second book was over, you know, six over pages long, and then I wrote a book about Nike called just do it. It was a big best seller, which was really a twenty five thou word sports illustrated cover story. That was I then elaborated on. But any rate, the joke then was said. I you know, Jack Dorsey started twitter and I were...

...in a steam room once at a conference and I told them this length story and I said little did I know it was going to get down to a hundred forty character for words done under character. But but I think that, and also, you know, I wrote this book hom fires, and you know this Patti's like. When you're a writer, there's nothing better than that great riff, that sentence where you and I would give lectures a journalism school and say if you don't get an electric charge in the back of your neck when you write that sentence that you know is got your best in it, then don't do this because it's really hard to do and it's it. And every time I would get one of those entrepreneur of the year things, which should get handed out a lot, I always would dedicate it to freelance writers who make a living in America, because I would say they they're the most entrepreneurial people. One a time I actually said I said I think I know everyone in America as a house who writes full time, because, and now you know, there's a lot of writing going on, but the number of people who can afford to write full time, including those who don't have to work in universities, is not that large. And I think one of the things audible's done is created a really major outlet for that, to say nothing of my favorite, you know fact of all, which is we directly contracted and employed sixty thousand and different working performers in the last ten years. So we created, you know, a lot of opportunity there, which I would like to think is is also a profoundly creative opportunity, which your work for audible. And you know the work you want to discuss related the immunity cow which herliders. That examplifive the whole idea, but the whole idea of the company had a creative vision and a create ur vision from the beginning. Because of where I came from and I also because I'd written business books, I understood what intermediaries, in this case, let's talk publishers and agents, didn't didn't do versus the primary, you know, creators themselves, and I also knew what they got out of all and I understood that and I understood for all best intentions of people who love books, the distribution model was really tortured to the point that you know, you've seen it. I'm sure you get to used to be, you get to you know Portland, and you do, and Portland on your book tour and then you go around. I'd go around trying to sign the books and lot of times there were no more. So when the idea of what digital could mean, you know, came to me in a whole another story, you know, of how things happened with my college roommate talking about the future of technology, because I switched my esquire column, where I wrote the business column for much of the s the you know, the investment column. I switched to attack on the thesis that it would be the next thing that my generation, the baby room generation, didn't know about, which was going to change their lives and the way that the money culture came at us when we thought maybe we wouldn't hit, we wouldn't have to deal with money. So so I knew a lot about it. But as soon as I saw, Oh my God, wait a minute, if you could digitally send these audio books that I have in my belly pack when I run around, you know, jogging, if you could send them digitally to people, you would never be out of stock and never you never have to go out of print. Now a lot of people even know what out of print is anymore. But you know, that was when your books are kind of you know, put on tables or shredded because nobody wants them anymore. And I thought, you know, this could be a really interesting thing. And and then I melted together. You know, mentioned that I had studied with Ralph Ellison my lifelong belief in the power of vernacular tradition,...

...of oral storytelling, and somehow audible came out of that. But so what do you attribute the original kernel of the idea of for audible from? I think it was some relations you had to Ralph. Yeah, definitely with the idea from Ralph. was just that I always knew that American literature wasn't function of the vernacular impact on our storytelling traditions and how pobbly clock that was at the Yankee peddler and the and the slaves in the field and the you know, the the storytelling traditions were so d and I knew that Mark Twain and Stephen Crane were writing like Americans when Henry James, who wrote like a Brit was still writing, because they listen and they heard it, you know. So I was always and then. But the truth is a lot of people really snobby about textual culture in the more literary realms of society because, you know, literary culture had been redefined from the nineteen century around print, even though for the previous couple thousand years it really was a vernacular tradition going back to the Greek. So I actually took this idea and thought, you know, if you added to the textual experience the nuanced interpretation, think of theater, for instance, where you know, think of the critical reviews of theater, it's it's not just the text, it's the text as refracted through interpretive performances and direction and dramaturgy. So I always had this idea that you could take the spoken word and the spoken word should have been a huge category of media in America, particularly up there with all elements of video and film and music and books. And that was the vision in the beginning, that it would be a mixture of the best writing and the best performance. It was the concept of the audiobook was fairly undeveloped, but it did exist. It was largely and if they were on a bridge you rented them in big brown boxes, but there were only a couple thousand all in audiobooks when we started. And a part of it was that and then part of it was always what I think, you know, Patty and thousands of other primary genius created have been a part of, was, you know what, if you wrote and performed to a really intimate esthetic and in the sense of it being always it would be almost like a your performance only. And so I sold people in on this Allelu the including Robin Williams, who was doing short form original programming for US five years before the word podcasts was came in, and then rick, Ricky Gervas jumped in and did some really interesting, you know stuff for us. And so we were always out there with this idea of the audiobook. Part of it really took off and partly because of the simple utility of allowing people, while they did other things, notably driving to work, to read, read five books in a month rather than one. I mean it was as simple as that. And and technology got better and better. But but there were various seat changes along the way, notably that, believe it or not, when I came into this, the people who are most serious about making audiobooks told the actors to take on a monotone they literally told them to read without any inflection, because it was the writer's game and this was just a supplement to it, you know, and so you know there were we when we decided to open up this as from audible and about two thousand nine, two thousand and ten, you started to get performers other than there were iconic audio books like a Jeremy Iron's doing Lalita, which was before we did this thing called project Hollywood where we decided let's get all the greatest actors in the world together and that them position a novel as a script and see what they can do. And they came from all over and witness if...

I'm sure listeners should know about wild swan, because patty is a host, but Cynthia Riva is is a Broadway and and highly trained British, you know, actor. So she, you know, the interpretive character. Bringing the great writing and great great performance together was kind of core. But it went really big about two thousand and ten through thousand and eleven, where we overtly drafted Colin Firth and and hathaway and besting off. Then, yeah, all these great people and then they just said, you saw what actors who are famous for making what they called great decisions, you know, in the acting world, can do. It really is kind of evolved for there and then in most of more recent years we've been back more to the pure idea of like what if you wrote and performed to this this powerfully animate kind of esthetic and leave, you know, if if you kind of read the papers, we mean just an ideal like audible theater has just generated, you know, a massive amount of amazing content and new voices and underrepresented voices and program like words and music, where we've had, I think, thirty profound storytelling experiences from major, major musicians where they tell you the story of something profound and punctuated with music. In our Peggio, James Turrett Taylor let it off and and this is just it's been just such a pleasure for me because the idea was always draw the best creativity out of primary creators and you will make, you know, listeners really, really happy and you'll also, you know, create. I have in almost where people can to be as creative as they want to be, because people do get slided in. I mean, if you're a best selling, you know, historical fiction writer, it's kind of an expectation are all around you of doing the same thing. But it's also amazing to me that that there's a book I could love, like the end of the affair by Grand Green, is one of my favorite books of all time and I've read it numerous times. But when I hear Colin Firth read the end of the affair, everything shifts. And I know that you've talked about before, and we mentioned it briefly the top, that all these different things come along and disrupt what we expect. So for you, when you talk about new journalism, you talked about the typewriter and their tape recorder and how that shifted things, and then the PC and how when these new things come along, these disruptors, they can often be demonized, right, invariably demonized, but by the standing owner class of the medium at the time. They actually usually create golden ages. There's a golden age of radio, a golden age of television, because they inevitably happen anyway, and the most creative people cross over and do want to be peer part of it, but at the institutional reaction. I mean one of the best examples is that the sheet music business in America was a profoundly calcified and extremely important and aristocratic business and people, but only rich people, played the piano and you know it was it was a very or had the music or the you know, and had the piano. But when when the idea of recorded music came in, they fought it off with just as hard as you know, the frankly, the movie industry spent almost all the time and effort fighting off the advent of pay cable in the Sunny Beta Max recorder in the early S. it's just happens every time. But it then explodes into, you know, new creativity and, frankly, business outcomes. I mean the the theater business was dying in the early the S. was less than two billion dollars or something, and...

...and they spent all this money and being told by the Supreme Court that no movies a movie, it doesn't matter if it's on TV, and onward. By the end of the century it was thirty billion dollars in revenue this twenty century and almost all the growth was in DVD's. Whenever those and you know, and other ways to to shift to shift and pay cable what came in there and other ways of the consumer having the convenience and of expressing their interesting things without going to the theater. So you know, it's just it's just one of it goes with the territory and truth is the paperback book was successfully subverted as a degradation of the purity that is the leather bound hard book for decades because in part of that was, you know, it wasn't really in the minds of a lot of people, nobody, probably alive now that you know, the rising middle class needed to read. It's just sent forks at that. That's that's kind of what it when you look at it. But what you said was so profound because, you know, handwriting changed the character of expression and was also a profoundly different technology that had its own resistance going back, you know, four hundred, five hundred years. So all of these things are fascinating historically, but they're also are often inevitable. It's just a question of whether those years of fighting it off, you know, our you know, negative for lots of people who could be, you know, and enjoying content, learning and having having ways that I mean I audible when you I mean my life's pretty exciting now because if people figure out my what I've done, the amount of people who literally have to sit me down and thank me for changing their life. It's just literally daily and so and you know, there's nothing better than a reader who speaks from the heart and tells you what you work is meant for them, which, it sutadly, still happened to me too. So I'm a doubly lucky guy. But but the the idea that this can have so many impacts on people and it really did change reading. I mean that there was a huge there was a huge inflection point where the intelligentsia in particular didn't talk about the difference between reading and listening and said, I mean, that's when I knew. You know, we actually had a campaign years ago called listening as the new reading, because it was actually becoming true. And you know, and that that point I didn't put the added thing that you actually get an interpretive layer and it was just a lot of work to get here and stuff. You know, one of the things was it when we did the project Hillhiwey, you know, two thousand and ten, two thousand and twelve period we began teaching in acting schools all over the world long form narrative arts, because the teaching at that point was pretty much focused on both theater and movies, which was shorter take. So this sustained ability to have a nuanced performance that would go on in a seamless and artful way for four hours. And so we taught, you know, and USC UCLA, tissue, Yale drama or Hill Academy the arts, and then, of course it became integrated into the curriculum and then eventually the New York Times route that we were the largest employer of actress in the New York area because so many people with acting gifts were now, you know, being able to work doing audio and they built a whole community around it. Yeah, it's a whether multiple communities of all different levels of, you know, of professional tainment. There's there's a platform called acx where people can audition online as long as they are usually young people with the voice talent, and they can actually do it from home with their own digital kits and and then publish it online. And there's all different communities of people who come together.

But one of my favorites, you know, relates to this idea of taking, you know, as with your your wild swans, where you get, you know, to talents who then come together and, you know, in interact and you know, obviously with the best, hopefully the best kind of nurturers and help from our producers, you know, in the same thing with Menacabey cheerleaders, which, you know, frankly, should have a much bigger audience, and maybe I'll try to help out with that, because I wasn't as aware of as I should be because we're making so much fantastic content now. But but the whole the way it's interpreted, the quality of the story, the fact that, you know, Martha Hull Kelly was was involved as another, you know, major author with, you know, of real big franchise in her more traditional way, which we sell lots of, you know, because she writes really interesting books. But to cross over and tell this true story and to do it in this alternating, you know, first person narrative kind of format, which is very powerful for us. It's just so exciting the friends and fiction writers block podcast is brought to you by our presenting sponsor, page one books. The page one book subscription provides the personal touch of an Indie bookstore with the delight and surprise of an online subscription service. Cre rated chest for you. The literary match makers that page one books hand select books just for you based on your preferences and their knowledge. At page one books, you are more than algorithm. Shop now at page one BOOKSCOM. That's page the number one bookscom choose their three, six or twelve months subscription plan. The gift of page one is always the custom fifth and now you can get fifteen percent off all book subscriptions with the Code Friends Fifteen. So you mentioned earlier a little bit about audible originals and and then moving on to audible theater a little bit. Recent article in New York Times was just fascinating and it was presented in such a new view of things. So can you talk about the a little bit about that and in particular we talked about coal country, which I'm halfway through listening to it. It's just unbelievable on audio, but it's also a live production. Yeah, when we started to basically put out the word to all elements of the writing community and always said anybody like you know, beat reporters, advertising writers, listen, if you can write to this format, we're here to you know, to help you and hear what you want to do. It became clear about seven years ago that the script writers from Hollywood were often so visually lad that the idea of putting a towel over your face, which is what always say, like and I does this work? You know, it just it was harder. And you know, gus dropping a name. But you know Shaun to ranspray, producer. I mean if you think of scandal and all the things she does, she she you know, the sound esthetic of a Shawn, thea Shanda has a beat. There's a music that continue know, and then there's the explosive Soliloquy by the Great Joe Morton or whatever it's. So you so you know you're on a and and she told me that that scriptwriters are trained primarily that have a map for action, you know, a map for visual action, and from there, you know, the switches are secondary. So I began to think about the theater community just as potential, you know, both under under employed, off and highly thoughtful and people who had the least work with a smaller box. And so this sort of started some ideas around this.

And plus I had a lifelong interest in particularly one in two voice. They call Um one handers and two handers in theater, which I think when the Soliloquy like voice really works or alternating Soliloquy, it's just so profound and I figured it would be right. It would be for everybody at auto, whether you grew up with radio theater, as frankly, only Americans over a really old age or a lot of breaths and a lot of Germans over forty, I grew up with radio theater. So so it just it's just one thing led to another and I got the support of again, probably not, you know, Tom Stoppard and Oscar used to the public theater and that Benning and and when noted, the great great playwright and Henry David Juan and others, and they all helped form this editorial board, to create a commission structure where we would commission and now it's been you know, I think, four dozen young playwrights to write one and two handers that we would produce and either we would put them on in theater or we wouldn't, but we'd certainly record them. And then then we took over the MINETTA theater, which is kind of an iconic independent small theater in Greenwich Village in New York, and we began to also say, you know, if you've got a really interesting performance, even if it's five days or twelve days, because the theater business is its own thing, which and part of this was one of the catalyst for this. Again, I dropping the names, but Patty knows it. Sometimes that is how I best ideas come up. That I remember Bettan middller telling me she'd committed to forty eight weeks for Hello Dolly because the business model of theater was such that that was the kind of link they needed. And I thought, wait a minute, we have a completely different business model. We're serving people I don't know. You know, millions of millions of them all over the world, and you know what their audio needs. We don't need to say that. So then the idea was like, well, let's you know the productive how long you can do it and everything doesn't really matter us and and we'd like to do this. And then, you know, they the other side of it that the times article picked up run. was that the I was I was saying that you, you, you ended up in the theater community on with no electronic revenue stream. If they think about it. So the speech I gave once. It's basically like if you know what a ticket to the browns game or the you know, or the giants game would cost if there was no television revenue. It would make a spring scene ticket on Broadway look cheap and and so the idea was we could potentially, you know, support the theater infrastructure with a new revenue stream. So there was a business concept behind it as well as a creative one. But but it's it's been. It's been amazing to watch how much of that talent. And then there's all this crossover stuff where, you know, you end up because somebody, Hollywood actors in the best actors wish they could be doing theater or at least respect people who do theater. So that kind of helps us with that. And then you end up. So with cold country, which was beautifully reviewed for like day performance before covid shut it down, with the public theater, where we have a strong alliance, we wanted to revive it and then, you know, record it and give it a new voice and then decided it was so good that we should put it back out as a theater experience too. But there's a case where Steve Earle, the weirdly talent attack and who's, you know, done so much from Nashville to to New York. He added so much to that piece with his amazing lyrics and and voice, while he also has one of the people is done a words and...

...music, audible original, and that's really worth listening to because it's it's as much it's a deep analysis of the history of Grandwich village and in a completely fascinating theory of what happened in the s between the Beatles and Bob Dylan riffing. I mean it's like it's just one of these things you would never hear. And plus he picks and and does his amazing you know, singing talking throughout the whole thing. So anyway, it's just a cold countries a is and it's a really, you know, unbelievably painful story of corporate just corporate greed at a point can frankly, you know, corporate crime and what, what the and what happened to these families in an era where it didn't need to happen? Amazing story over twenty years to see these audible go from this idea of vernacular storytelling to audible originals, to audible theater to it's it's astounding to watch and shows that we were waiting to listen to all of this, but we can't go anywhere. We've kept you way too long. But we have to talk about your contribution to the community in new work, because we're audible is headquartered, because one of audible's people principles is activate caring, and you are recognized as one of America's top twenty five, and I still love this word, disruptive leaders and your work on behalf of of urban transformation. You're the founder of new work venture. Also you work with new work working kitchens. Talk a little bit to us about why you think it's important that businesses are involved in their communities the way audible is. Well, I can't say what other businesses ought to do, but in the spirit of leading by example, we decided to move into a city most people thought of as a broken and and and defined by danger and poverty in two thousand and seven. And part of this was to to basically the concept of activate caring, which is, you know, people principles are pretty distinctive and I kind of think about you know, there's no companies are all good. I think there have been companies have proven you can have a company that's all bad and the people may not be, but the companies actually can be. and cold country shows that, you know, in a big way but I think what I always pledge was, at the time we were past the near death experiences, of which there were many, of just making the company work and sustain itself, that we would turn as best we could to something that I had been literally thinking about, studying and it define my life as, which is urban core and urban inequality and some of the structural inequalities which, unfortunately, it took the death of George Floyd for others to start to wake up and think about or read about the the fix being in for particularly people of Color in the urban core. And I just, and I go back to you, my formative experiences in Chicago and growing up when I did and the civil rights movement and what in the in the you know, the really this city and the state killing Black Panthers and things were incredibly impactful parts of my existence. So I understood a lot about this. So anyways, we tried, as you said, we've we've done so many different programs. In my idea was scalable investment paradigms like wealth creation and company creation and, you know, not just giving money to charities, and it's more complicated argument, but would happen in American philanthropy was that the inovasions that were part of American philanthropy in the early twentieth century kind of gave way to just letting the nonprofits have money at the gala time and things like that, and so it over indexed on the outcomes of structural inequality and poverty and and health and all the issues, and it...

...didn't actually do a lot to talk about things it could affect the core cause of this. And Martin the king has sermons about this in one thousand nine hundred and sixty three, about expiating guilt, you know, versus speaking to the cause of the need of charity. And so we've tried our best to do this and use things like multiplier effects and, you know, Amazon and audible kind of rules, the flywheel or things that can hit five and six things at the same time. So you start a venture phone that des mind to bring companies in and create all these ruboff jobs, maybe up to seven new jobs for every tech job in a changing community, and then you potentially you start to focus on things like really innovative mental health services for on underserved population, and then you nurture those companies so then you can drive job growth and you know, and new work and you can also serve under privilege communities, and so you know, it's a flywell. So anyway, it's I'm I'm glad to do. You mentioned it and it's it's my sense of being impactful on the social side as a company is, to me, one of the best reasons you'd want to work it audible if you fully understood the opportunity. And it's been really defining and the good news is it's wherein I think, twenty five global centers. But people who work for audible and all of them have different ways, given their communities, of embracing this idea of activate caring, which really is, you know, you're a language person and you both are, and so it's like, you know, the idea was, you know, that's not the same as giving back or caring. It's activism of some level, and that was the idea where that was written in a particular way. And so, you know, our people principles instantly are a small pros experience. I kind of rejected the idea of these one off corporate value statements, partly because I covered world common and Ron in the old days and you know, and those Cup right since which you forget talk about outlaw. You know, you know that they're there. Their principles and their value statements weren't that different than a lot of these you know, little slogan statement ones the tech companies have. So I figured, you know, it's something you have to read and think about and you know. And whatever happens in the future with for me at least, they're there for other people to read who work for Aud of that I'm probably not going to know. Well, it just that language makes you think of moving towards something, right, yeah, not just writing a check or supporting or showing up at a gala, but activating, like movement towards something. Yeah, yeah, I do wish and that other companies would do that. I mean, you move into the urban corps, you start to hire the kinds of human beings who live in these cities. It is the most liberal it is. It literally it this at the part we've talked about the power of giving people a chance. You add them into a corporate culture that already has all these old English manajors. Turn in the business people like me and super technologists and you know, actors and directors and you know people from all kind of walks of life. It just creates it begins to go back to the idea of a back at rolling stone. You know that the alarm. You know when it's when it works. COVID is really injured. You know, basically is injured. Poor people worse than rich people's. It's injured. You know, the the character of the downtown. It's injured so many things. So we're still trying to figure out how to recover from that. But on the whole, you know, the visions of the possible. I often say I've been, you know, pretty, pretty successful and potentially rock lepricalable. Why other corporations or philanthropies or governments? It's amazing. Okay, done. We have so much more to talk to you about narrators and stories and audible originals and growth of the platform, but I think a great way to end is with one of your quotes that I love. I've always thought that companies can have hearts and souls and they can have meaningful legacies and that, our listeners, is what audible is,...

...a company with a heart and a soul and a legacy so inspiring. Oh my goodness, John, the last thing before you go. I know that you're really active on twitter. Where else can listeners find you find out more about audible? I'm actually not, Ron. It's so funny. I got to tell you I'm just not. It's so funny. I was a interactive with my friend Neil game and the great writer they and it. You know, noticed it said he posted like one million like tweets or something. I say I I literally just never did it. And and so it's not it's not the best way to access me. It's probably best if you want to, you know, it's just Google me and, you know, go check stuff out and check out the people, principles and the like. So I can't say that I was. I was great at picking up socials as a moto communication. I couldn't be that sensity. I couldn't even send fit one of my sentences into a tweet up this sort of an art form. But yeah, now it is. I think it's best. It's Icho frankly, I think some ticktock creativity right now drawing forth the best of the crowd creativity I've seen in a long time. I think it's it's and I mean it's I think something about the link itself is just forcing, like high co kind of a concise the level of new expression, which I didn't really see with twitter and certainly not, you know, the other social platforms don't seem to be well for those of us who write five hundred page novels, me right. It's just not my best form of communication. Yeah, you condense your book down into when characters. No, no, anyway, Don thank you so much for joining us. Thank you, run and thank you, Patty and inspiring. Thank you. Thank you for joining us on our two part journey into the world of all things audible. Thanks for listening and please tell a friend. Thank you to our presenting sponsors, Charleston Coffee Roasters and page one books, for their generous support. Show our sponsors some love by following them on facebook and instagram and subscribing to their email newsletters. Remember use code coffee with friends for twenty percent off bagged coffees at Charleston Coffee Roasters, and code friends, plural friends fifteen for fifteen percent off book subscriptions at Page One. Thank you for tuning in to the friends and fiction writers block podcast. Please be sure to subscribe, rate and review on your favorite podcast platform. Tune in every Friday for another episode and you can also join us every week on facebook for Youtube. Where are live? Friends and fiction show airs at seven PM Eastern Standard Time. We are so glad you're here.

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