Laura Sydell

Laura Sydell fell in love with the intimate storytelling qualities of radio, which combined her passion for theatre and writing with her addiction to news. Over her career she has covered politics, arts, media, religion, and entrepreneurship. Currently Sydell is the Digital Culture Correspondent for NPR's All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, and NPR.org.

Sydell's work focuses on the ways in which technology is transforming our culture and how we live. For example, she reported on robotic orchestras and independent musicians who find the Internet is a better friend than a record label as well as ways technology is changing human relationships.

Sydell has traveled through India and China to look at the impact of technology on developing nations. In China, she reported how American television programs like Lost broke past China's censors and found a devoted following among the emerging Chinese middle class. She found in India that cell phones are the computer of the masses.

Sydell teamed up with Alex Bloomberg of NPR's Planet Money team and reported on the impact of patent trolls on business and innovations particular to the tech world. The results were a series of pieces that appeared on This American Life and All Things Considered. The hour long program on This American Life "When Patents Attack! - Part 1," was honored with a Gerald Loeb Award and accolades from Investigative Reporters and Editors. A transcript of the entire show was included in The Best Business Writing of 2011 published by Columbia University Press.

Before joining NPR in 2003, Sydell served as a senior technology reporter for American Public Media's Marketplace, where her reporting focused on the human impact of new technologies and the personalities behind the Silicon Valley boom and bust.

Sydell is a proud native of New Jersey and prior to making a pilgrimage to California and taking up yoga she worked as a reporter for NPR Member Station WNYC in New York. Her reporting on race relations, city politics, and arts was honored with numerous awards from organizations such as The Newswomen's Club of New York, The New York Press Club, and The Society of Professional Journalists.

American Women in Radio and Television, The National Federation of Community Broadcasters, and Women in Communications have all honored Sydell for her long-form radio documentary work focused on individuals whose life experiences turned them into activists.

After finishing a one-year fellowship with the National Arts Journalism Program at Columbia University, Sydell came to San Francisco as a teaching fellow at the Graduate School of Journalism at University of California, Berkeley.

Sydell graduated Magna Cum Laude with a bachelor's degree from William Smith College in Geneva, New York, and earned a J.D. from Yeshiva University's Cardozo School of Law.

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All Tech Considered
3:19 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

In A Battle For Web Traffic, Bad Bots Are Going After Grandma

By hijacking a user's computer, "bad" bots make it look as if she visits a website often, thus making the site more valuable to advertisers.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Mon July 7, 2014 9:05 am

As the Web turns 25, it's becoming a terrific place if you're a bot.

It began as a tool for human communication, but now, over 60 percent of the traffic on the Web is automated applications called bots talking to other bots, according to one study. And experts say about half of those bots are bad.

But first let's talk about the good bots.

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Law
2:15 pm
Wed June 25, 2014

Supreme Court Deals A Big Win For TV Broadcasters

Originally published on Wed June 25, 2014 7:30 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. It was a bad day for a certain tech startup. The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a heavy blow to a service that lets consumers stream and record broadcast TV from their phones, computers or tablets. The High Court said it violates the programming copyrights of broadcasters. NPR's Laura Sydell has the story.

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All Tech Considered
10:18 am
Fri June 13, 2014

Critics Renew Calls For More Diverse Video Game Characters

Actress and gamer Aisha Tyler hosted game developer Ubisoft's press conference at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles. The company was recently criticized for not animating female assassins in one of its new games.
Lucy Nicholson Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Mon June 16, 2014 9:11 am

There's a myth that only nerdy white guys play and make video games. At this week's video game extravaganza in Los Angeles called Electronic Entertainment Expo, Microsoft didn't do much to change that image.

At the company's E3 press conference, there was an unseen female announcer, but there was only one female who stood on stage and spoke. Bonnie Ross, who heads the Microsoft studio that produces its blockbuster game Halo, spoke for less than two minutes.

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Business
3:17 am
Fri June 13, 2014

At E3, Critics Renew Calls For More Diverse Video Game Characters

Originally published on Fri June 13, 2014 7:29 am

Even though women make up a significant proportion of dedicated gamers, there are few female protagonists in big-selling video games. The same goes for ethnic and racial minorities.

All Tech Considered
3:13 pm
Thu June 12, 2014

Q&A: Nintendo President Says Don't Count Out Mario

Reggie Fils-Aime is president and chief operating officer of Nintendo of America.
Jae C. Hong AP

Originally published on Thu June 12, 2014 3:36 pm

The American face of Nintendo, President and Chief Operating Officer Reggie Fils-Aime, once said, "I'm about kicking ass, I'm about taking names."

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Music News
1:47 pm
Mon June 9, 2014

Reach For The Sky, YouTube: Music Service In Standoff

A still from Vampire Weekend's "Diane Young" music video, which has received more than 3 million views on YouTube.
YouTube

Originally published on Tue June 10, 2014 9:41 am

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All Tech Considered
3:11 am
Wed June 4, 2014

Into The Virtual Reality Lab With Pioneering Researchers

Peter Mason tries the Oculus virtual reality headset at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco earlier this year. Some see Facebook's acquisition of the company as a turning point.
Jeff Chiu AP

Originally published on Wed June 4, 2014 9:41 pm

When Facebook paid $2 billion to buy Oculus VR, the company that makes the virtual reality goggles, it turned heads. Oculus doesn't even make a profit, but many enthusiasts believe this may be a turning point for a technology that's been around for decades.

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Business
3:24 am
Thu May 29, 2014

For $3 Billion, Apple Buys Dr. Dre's Beats Electronics

Originally published on Thu May 29, 2014 5:33 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Apple is moving to the beat. The company's made it official. It's buying Beats Electronics, which streams music and makes the popular Beats headphones. Rumors of this deal leaked earlier this month. All told, Beats came with a $3 billion price tag - the largest acquisition in Apple's history. As NPR's Laura Sydell reports, it's a deal that has some analysts scratching their heads.

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Business
3:23 am
Tue May 20, 2014

Malicious Software Probe Reveals Vast Criminal Network

Originally published on Tue May 20, 2014 9:43 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

NPR's business news starts with a crackdown on hackers.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: Law Enforcement officials announced charges in connection with malicious software that makes it easy for anyone to spy on computer remotely. The case reveals a vast international criminal network that made blackmail and password theft simple and cheap.

As NPR's Laura Sydell reports.

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Technology
2:05 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

FCC Votes To Open Debate On New Net Neutrality Rules

Originally published on Thu May 15, 2014 6:18 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

Federal Communications Commission meetings usually don't cause much excitement, but today's did. The FCC voted to open up public debate on proposed Internet rules. There were protests before and during the meeting. And inside the meeting room and across the country, there's a lot of concern that the Web, as we know it, is in peril.

NPR's Laura Sydell has more.

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All Tech Considered
1:42 am
Thu May 15, 2014

FCC To Unveil Proposed Rules To Govern Internet Traffic

Proponents of open Internet access protest in front of the FCC headquarters in Washington, D.C. The commission votes Thursday on its proposed rules amid debate about network neutrality.
Elise Hu NPR

Originally published on Thu May 15, 2014 12:55 pm

The Federal Communications Commission announced last month that it would propose new rules. In a blog post, Chairman Tom Wheeler insists that the open Internet rules will help maintain what's called network neutrality. That is, making certain that your Internet provider doesn't give a faster connection to a service that can pay more.

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All Tech Considered
2:38 pm
Mon May 12, 2014

As Drones Fly In Cities And Yards, So Do The Complaints

Merrill uses a drone to take aerial shots of Santa Cruz, Calif.
Courtesy of David Merrill

Originally published on Wed May 14, 2014 8:25 am

The price of drones is dropping — a decent one could cost you $300 — but the reality of the devices flying around cities and neighborhoods doesn't sit well with a lot of Americans.

Are they just paranoid?

Three months ago, when Michael Kirschner and his wife purchased a new condo in San Francisco, they were not concerned about drones. They fell in love with the unit because of its big picture windows.

"You have a view that reaches all the way out to the Golden Gate Bridge," Kirschner says.

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Business
7:52 am
Sat May 3, 2014

Apple's Win Settles Samsung's Complaint, Too

Originally published on Sat May 3, 2014 10:33 am

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Yesterday a jury handed down a mixed verdict in a patent dispute between Samsung and Apple. Both sides were found to have violated each other's patents, however Apple received most of the damages - over $119 million.

But as NPR's Laura Sydell reports, many experts say the case can be seen as a victory for Samsung and may mark a turn in the international battle between the two smartphone makers.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: When the late Apple CEO and founder, Steve Jobs, introduced the first iPhone, he famously made this remark.

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Law
6:17 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

For Apple, A Limited Victory Against Samsung In Infringement Case

Originally published on Sat May 3, 2014 9:17 am

In a case between tech giants Apple and Samsung, a jury has issued a mixed verdict. The decision marks only the latest in an ongoing struggle over patents between the two companies, a struggle that is expected to see its next skirmish at the Supreme Court later this year.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

All Tech Considered
2:43 pm
Thu May 1, 2014

How The Supreme Court Could Reshape The Tech Patent Landscape

iStockphoto

Originally published on Mon May 5, 2014 11:41 am

A California jury is deliberating a major lawsuit between tech titans Apple and Samsung. Apple is suing Samsung for patent infringement and asking for a whopping $2 billion in damages. But even if Apple prevails in this case, later this year the Supreme Court could undermine the victory by calling Apple's patents and thousands of others into question.

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Law
4:09 am
Wed April 30, 2014

High Court Ruling Likely To Control Patent Trolls

Originally published on Wed April 30, 2014 6:22 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

NPR's business news starts with a bad day for trolls.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: A Supreme Court ruling, handed down yesterday, will make it easier for companies that successfully fight off frivolous patent lawsuits to get their legal fees reimbursed. Observers say this ruling will help ward off so-called patent trolls.

NPR's Laura Sydell reports.

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All Tech Considered
2:23 pm
Fri April 25, 2014

You Love The Cloud, But It May Not Be As Secure As You Think

If you're storing your digital belongings in the cloud, you should know you're giving up some rights.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri April 25, 2014 5:15 pm

People are storing more and more stuff online: photos, music, personal documents — even books. The business of cloud storage is growing 30 percent a year, Forrester Research says. But if you're storing your digital belongings in the cloud, you should know you're giving up some rights.

A year ago, I talked to Kyle Goodwin about one of those scary computer moments — he was saving important videos from his business to an external hard drive.

"Right in the middle of a save, I knocked it off my coffee table and it hit the floor and it's destroyed," he said.

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All Tech Considered
4:30 pm
Thu April 24, 2014

Life Outside The Fast Lane: Startups Wary Of Web Traffic Plan

Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of the Internet startup Reddit, says he and his partner had no connections and little money when they started the now-popular site.
Tanya Kechichian Courtesy of Hachette Book Group USA

Originally published on Sat April 26, 2014 9:24 pm

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission is offering up some new rules to govern traffic on the Internet. The draft document could allow some Web companies to pay more for faster access.

It's the latest attempt by the FCC to adjust so-called network neutrality rules, initially intended to make sure that all traffic on the Internet moves at the same speed.

The new rules won't be made public until May, but some members of the startup world are already worried.

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Law
2:05 pm
Mon April 21, 2014

Anti-Poaching Agreements May Implicate Several Tech Titans

Originally published on Mon April 21, 2014 5:26 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. A court case in Silicon Valley has brought some juicy emails to light. The correspondence involved some of the valley's biggest stars including the late Apple founder and CEO, Steve Jobs. Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe are accused in a class action suit of suppressing the wages of their developers and engineers.

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Business
3:20 am
Mon April 21, 2014

U.S. Supreme Court To Hear Arguments In Argentina Debt Case

Originally published on Mon April 21, 2014 5:53 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Argentina and its teetering economy will be affected by case being heard today by the U.S. Supreme Court. The case goes back more than a decade and could have wide implications, not just for Argentina's economy, but also to relations with the U.S.

NPR's Laura Sydell reports.

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All Tech Considered
1:14 am
Fri April 4, 2014

Twitch Boosts A New Pro Category: Video Game Player

"I make a living attempting to beat video games on my show, and people watch," says Jayson Love, whose stage name is Man.
Twitch.tv screengrab

Originally published on Fri April 4, 2014 11:01 am

It may not surprise you that Netflix uses more bandwidth at peak hours than any other company, followed by Google and Apple. No. 4 on the list, though, is Twitch.tv.

Twitch is a company devoted to live interactive broadcasting of people playing video games. It's helping to launch a new type of broadcast professional.

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Business
4:11 am
Mon March 31, 2014

Apple And Samsung Face Off In Court Again Over Patents

Originally published on Mon March 31, 2014 5:55 am

Each company claims the other one has swiped its patents. This time Apple is going after patents in the Android operating system that run Samsung's Galaxy S3.

Business
12:38 am
Thu March 27, 2014

No Sugar High For Wall Street: Candy Crush Maker's IPO Disappoints

A banner for the mobile gaming company King Digital Entertainment is seen outside the New York Stock Exchange during King's initial public offering.
Andrew Burton Getty Images

Originally published on Mon March 31, 2014 10:18 am

Candy Crush is played by trying to line up at least three of the same color of candies.

In February, an average of 144 million daily active users got sucked in to the challenge.

Candy Crush is one of more than 180 games made by King Digital Entertainment, and it alone brought in three-quarters of the company's revenue in the last quarter of 2013.

Roger Kay, president of research firm Endpoint Technologies Associates, says to a lot of investors, the game seemed like Farmville, the hit game by Zynga that Zynga can't seem to repeat.

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Business
3:10 am
Wed March 12, 2014

Kickstarter Campaign Begins For Neil Young's Music Player

Visually, the Pono player is a relic, but what matters is how it sounds — better than any consumer device for listening to digital audio, according to founder Neil Young.
PonoMusic

Originally published on Wed March 19, 2014 8:16 am

Amid the thousands promoting new music at this week's SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, one artist took to the stage Tuesday to promote a new way to hear it. Before a crowd at the Austin Convention Center, Neil Young launched a Kickstarter campaign to support his long-planned high fidelity music player and online store, Pono.

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Technology
2:22 pm
Mon March 10, 2014

Path To Television's Future May Be Paved In Virtual Reality

Originally published on Mon March 10, 2014 5:59 pm

On display at South by Southwest is an attempt to create the future of storytelling. HBO is working with Oculus — maker of virtual reality goggles — to put the audience right into Game of Thrones.

All Tech Considered
1:04 am
Thu March 6, 2014

Anti-Muslim Video Still Stirring Controversy In The Courtroom

Actress Cindy Lee Garcia (right) brought a copyright claim against Google with the help of attorney Cris Armenta over the film Innocence of Muslims, which was posted to YouTube in 2012.
Jason Redmond AP

Originally published on Thu March 6, 2014 9:43 pm

Google intends to fight a court order to remove a controversial anti-Muslim video from YouTube in the U.S.

The company plans to file for a hearing before a full nine-judge panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals after two of three judges on a smaller panel forced the company to take down the film, Innocence of Muslims, which caused uproar in the Islamic world in 2012.

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All Tech Considered
6:39 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

A Win For Fair Use After Record Label, Copyright Lawyer Settle

Law professor Lawrence Lessig has reached a settlement with an Australian record label that tried to sue him for infringement.
Neilson Barnard Getty Images

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 7:17 pm

An Australian record label that threatened to sue one of the world's most famous copyright attorneys for infringement has reached a settlement with him.

The settlement includes an admission that Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard Law School professor, had the right to use a song by the band Phoenix.

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All Tech Considered
8:15 am
Wed February 26, 2014

iOS 6 Users Left In The Lurch After Security Flaw Discovered

Still using Apple's iOS 6? You may be counting on luck to protect your iPhone from a serious security flaw.
Michael Nagle Getty Images

As has been widely reported, Apple recently discovered a critical bug in its iOS and OS systems.

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Business
4:10 am
Thu February 20, 2014

Facebook To Buy WhatsApp Message Service

Originally published on Thu February 20, 2014 8:56 am

Facebook is buying an instant messaging service called WhatsApp for an eye-popping $19 billion. It's the latest salvo in an arms race by Silicon Valley giants to stockpile mobile technology.

All Tech Considered
1:43 am
Fri February 14, 2014

Mobile Match Apps Are 'Dating On Steroids'

Matchmaking apps like Tinder can help people find potential dates quickly.
Tinder

Originally published on Fri February 14, 2014 10:15 am

It's Valentine's Day, and if you aren't giving roses to someone special — or getting them — you might be thinking ahead to next year.

But OkCupid and Match.com may be considered old-school ways to find a mate. These days, whether you're gay or straight, the online dating scene is all about apps. Like a lot of technological change, apps bring efficiency to the process. But that isn't always a good thing.

Kristy Vannatter used to use the online dating service eHarmony, but she says it was a lot of work.

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