Pushing the Limits

From being a war journalist for Rolling Stone to becoming one of the top disruptive leaders, Donald Katz has come a long way. Here he talks about his time as a war correspondent and his entrepreneurial journey.

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By Priyadarshini Patwa


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Donald Katz, CEO of Audible, contantly strives to find a balance between today and yesterday. Named as one of the top disruptive leaders, Katz, the tech man is the founder of the world's largest seller and producer of downloadable audiobooks and other spoken-word content. Going by the numbers in 2016, users downloaded almost two billion hours of content.

"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, and it holds to my long belief that companies can have hearts and souls and missions that can transcend financial success," he says.

Founded in 1995, Audible now owned by Amazon is the ultimate platform for people who love storytelling and listening to content rather than reading it. But reaching this level wouldn't have been possible for Audible without Katz's unrelenting passion. Obsessed with writing and literature, he always knew the value of stories and its voice. So coming up with something like Audible was always on the cards.

While Audible has been around globally for over a decade now, it made its debut in India recently. And just in a short duration of time, it has made quite an impact in the audio entertainment market by providing original content, over 2,00,000 English-language audiobooks. As insane as the number might sound, that's not it, one also has over 400 exclusive titles by local authors, making it an ultimate place for people who value recitals and narration.

While he is known as a popular tech person, he was once a correspondent for Rolling Stone, where he covered terrorism and revolutions around the world and then he turned to writing. Twenty years into this profession did make him push the limit and achieve the impossible.

Before becoming the top tech CEO, he learned to depict things as they are due to his stint as a journalist. Covering wars and real-life stories affected him to the core and that's when he turned toward the books.

Katz says, "I'm lucky to have had the gift of two careers. I began my 20-year writing career for Rolling Stone as the magazine's London correspondent in the mid-'70s, and I went on to cover wars and revolutions and met the = most interesting, gifted and terrifying people. I was very affected by being part of the early days of Rolling Stone, when we felt we were imprinting the culture with something new and writing stories that depicted the world, not as it is, as a line in the Talmud phrases it, "but as we are'. There was a real élan to it." Katz left writing but his experience as a writer made him build a successful brand.

"Many elements that make Audible a distinctive company in many ways has a higher purpose drawn upon the many things I experienced as a writer," he explains.

(This article was first published in the Febuary issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)

Priyadarshini Patwa

Entrepreneur Staff

Features Editor, Entrepreneur India

Priyadarshini Patwa is the Features Editors of Entrepreneur India and hosts an Instagram show every Friday named ‘Lighten Up’, about people from different walks of life and talk about their work and beyond. She handles the lifestyle, features, technology, entertainment segments and also is responsible for the Digital Covers. Previously she has worked with MensXP, a Times of India entity and Deccan Chronicle. 

She’s @Priyanka_Patwa on Twitter and @priyadarshinipatwa on Instagram.

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