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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Business
3:55 am
Fri August 9, 2013

FTC Receives Complaints About Learning Apps For Babies

Originally published on Fri August 9, 2013 10:06 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Maybe you've seen a busy parent do this - hand over their smart phone to a child with a kid-friendly app running to keep them busy. Well, yesterday an advocacy group complained to the Federal Trade Commission that Fisher Price is deceiving parents by promoting its Laugh & Learn apps as educational.

NPR's Laura Sydell reports.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: Babies are encouraged to learn about shapes and colors on this version of Laugh & Learn apps.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGH & LEARN APP)

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All Tech Considered
3:28 am
Wed August 7, 2013

Amazon Enters Art World; Galleries Say They Aren't Worried

Amazon said its new art marketplace will provide access to more than 40,000 works of art from at least 150 galleries and dealers.
Amazon.com

Originally published on Wed August 7, 2013 9:35 am

Local record and book shops have been disappearing as the market for music and literature moves online. In the past few years, there's been a growth in sites that sell fine art on the Internet. On Tuesday, Amazon joined that market. But in this case, many brick and mortar galleries aren't seeing the Internet as a threat.

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All Tech Considered
4:37 pm
Mon August 5, 2013

Trade Case Puts Apple In Washington's Sights

The U.S. Trade Representative has overturned a ban on the import of the iPhone 4 and the iPad 2.
David Paul Morris Getty Images

Originally published on Mon August 5, 2013 5:08 pm

Apple has been notoriously disinterested in Washington politics. But two decisions coming from the Obama administration in the past few days indicate that Washington is increasingly interested in Apple.

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Business
2:56 pm
Mon July 29, 2013

Ad Agency Merger Reflects New Realities Of Online Advertising

Originally published on Wed July 31, 2013 7:01 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

It's Paris meets Madison Avenue. Yesterday two of the world's largest advertising agencies announced plans to merge. The French ad company Publicis is combining with the New York-based Omnicom. The merger is largely a response to the growing dominance of Silicon Valley companies such as Google and Facebook.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

NPR's digital culture correspondent Laura Sydell joins us now to talk about what it all means. Hey there, Laura.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: Hello.

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All Tech Considered
1:04 am
Mon July 15, 2013

How Hackers Tapped Into My Cellphone For Less Than $300

It's easier — and cheaper — than you'd expect to hack a cellphone, say a team of white hat hackers.
iStockPhoto.com

Originally published on Mon July 15, 2013 6:57 am

In the wake of the National Security Agency cyber-spying revelations, you may be worrying about the government keeping track of your digital life. But, for less than $300, a group of ordinary hackers found a way to tap right into Verizon cellphones.

This is a group of good-guy, or "white hat", hackers. They hacked the phones to warn wireless carriers that the phones have a security flaw.

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Business
3:13 am
Fri July 12, 2013

Apple To Appeal Ruling It Fixed E-Book Prices

Originally published on Fri July 12, 2013 3:40 am

A federal judge this week ruled that Apple conspired to raise prices of e-books, handing a victory to the Justice Department. Another winner in the fallout from this case was Amazon, the dominant seller of e-books.

Remembrances
2:01 am
Thu July 4, 2013

Douglas Engelbart Dies At 88, Invented Computer Mouse

Originally published on Thu July 4, 2013 7:48 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And a remembrance, now. The, a computer visionary best known for inventing the mouse has died. As NPR's Laura Sydell reports, the mouse was just one small piece of what Douglas Engelbart contributed to the development of personal computers.

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The Record
1:18 am
Wed July 3, 2013

New Jay-Z Album Tests The Musician And Samsung

A still of Jay-Z from the commercial for his new album.
YouTube

Originally published on Wed July 3, 2013 1:26 pm

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Music News
5:42 am
Sun June 30, 2013

Taj Mahal: Still Cooking Up 'Heirloom Music' His Own Way

Taj Mahal is credited with helping popularize American blues over the course of his five-decade career.
Jay Blakesberg Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Sun June 30, 2013 10:46 am

Taj Mahal has a degree in animal husbandry and agronomy, and planned to be a farmer. Music was just something he did.

"No matter what went down, music was always going to be a part of my life," the guitarist and singer says. "What ultimately happened is that, over a period of time, I just kind of looked around and when like, 'Wow! I'm actually making a living doing this.'"

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Business
2:04 am
Thu June 27, 2013

$99 Game Console Ouya Aims To Take Down Barriers To Fans

The Ouya game console and controller. Games are sold through something like an app store, allowing customers to sample them before buying.
Courtesy of Ouya

Originally published on Thu June 27, 2013 10:37 am

Sony and Microsoft are preparing to launch their latest gaming consoles this fall with price tags from $400 for the PlayStation 4 and $500 for the Xbox One. But this week, a $99 game console went on sale and sold out at Target and Amazon.

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The Record
3:28 am
Sat June 15, 2013

Pandora Buys A Radio Station, Songwriters' Group Calls It A 'Stunt'

Blake Morgan's songs were played some 28,000 times over a 90-day period on Pandora, earning $1.62 in royalties.
Jim Herrington Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Sat June 15, 2013 2:40 pm

This week, the Internet radio broadcaster Pandora made what seems like a backward move — technologically speaking. Pandora purchased a local radio station in Rapid City, S.D. The company says it's aiming to get the more favorable royalty rates given to terrestrial broadcasters, but the move has songwriters and composers up in arms.

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Business
3:23 am
Tue June 11, 2013

Competitors Try To Chip Away At Pandora's Audience

Originally published on Tue June 11, 2013 4:56 am

On Monday, Apple announced iRadio — its entry into the crowded field of music streaming services. iTunes has become the top music retailer by selling song files. But no one in the music business thinks the iTunes model is the future. Pandora is the oldest and most successful streaming service so far. But it's been a disappointment to investors.

Music
3:25 pm
Mon June 10, 2013

Apple's Music Streaming Service Smaller Than Anticipated

Originally published on Tue June 11, 2013 6:11 am

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Now to another topic in tech. Today, Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference launched in San Francisco. The company made a slew of announcements: new MacBooks, a new operating system, and the most anticipated announcement - Apple's entry into the streaming music market with iTunes Radio. But as NPR's Laura Sydell reports, many analysts are underwhelmed.

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Business
3:30 am
Tue June 4, 2013

Apple: Price-Fixing Charges 'Not True'

Originally published on Tue June 4, 2013 2:29 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Lawyers for Apple will be back in court today, defending the company against government charges that it conspired with publishers to fix eBook prices. All the major publishing houses settled months ago with the Justice Department.

But as NPR's Laura Sydell reports, Apple's lawyer told the court the company won't settle because it did nothing wrong.

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Business
2:14 pm
Mon June 3, 2013

Apple Gets Day In Court Over Alleged E-Book Price Fixing

Originally published on Thu June 6, 2013 1:52 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Now, in today's ALL TECH CONSIDERED, Apple on trial. The company is in federal court today fighting government charges that it colluded with book publishers to drive up the price of electronic books.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The Justice Department claims publishers used the introduction of the iPad as an opportunity to set higher prices. Five publishers have already settled civil charges with the government, but Apple has not. Laura Sydell is in New York, covering the first day of the trial. Hi there, Laura.

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Business
4:47 am
Wed May 22, 2013

Microsoft Unveils Its new Xbox One

Originally published on Wed May 22, 2013 9:04 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

The wait is over for many Xbox fans. Yesterday, Microsoft unveiled its next generation Xbox gaming console. It's called Xbox One. It's the first major revamp of the gaming system since 2005. In our business bottom line, NPR's Laura Sydell reports the new Xbox is designed to be an all-in-one system, an entertainment hub for movies, TV and games that should appeal as much to grandparents as it does to children.

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All Tech Considered
3:28 pm
Mon May 20, 2013

With New Xbox, Microsoft Makes A Bigger Play For Living Room

An Xbox 360 video presentation at the E3 Media and Business Summit in Los Angeles in 2008. Microsoft is scheduled to introduce its newest Xbox on Tuesday.
Ric Francis AP

Originally published on Mon May 20, 2013 7:00 pm

Microsoft hasn't exactly had a great couple of years.

Its new Windows 8 operating system was held responsible for the drop in PC sales last quarter. Sales of its Windows Phones lag far behind both the iPhone and Google's Android phones.

The light in the darkness for Microsoft has been the Xbox 360, which has been the top-selling game console for over two years — beating out both the Nintendo Wii and Sony's PlayStation. On Tuesday, Microsoft is expected to announce a new version of the Xbox.

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The Record
2:39 pm
Wed May 15, 2013

Google Launches A Streaming Music Service

Chris Yerga, engineering director for Android at Google Inc., speaks at the company's I/O Annual Developers Conference in San Francisco on Wednesday.
David Paul Morris Bloomberg via Getty Images

Originally published on Thu May 16, 2013 4:19 pm

The competition for your ears — and dollars — just got a little tougher. On Wednesday, Google launched a paid music subscription service that will put it in direct competition with other streaming services like Spotify and Pandora. The announcement may just be the beginning for Google.

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All Tech Considered
1:33 am
Thu May 9, 2013

Consumers Facing Subscription Service Overload Will Only Get More Choices

Originally published on Thu May 9, 2013 2:02 pm

YouTube is expected to announce in the coming days that it will launch paid subscription channels, a first for the online video platform that's been around since 2005. But, with the growing number of subscription services available for entertainment, shopping and news, some consumers say they're reaching digital subscription overload.

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Technology
2:57 pm
Mon May 6, 2013

Tech Week Ahead: YouTube's Subscription Service

Originally published on Mon May 6, 2013 7:00 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

I'm Audie Cornish. And it's time now for All Tech Considered.

(SOUNDBITE OF THEME MUSIC)

CORNISH: YouTube, the website that made its name as the place where you can broadcast yourself, is on the verge of launching a subscription service. NPR's Laura Sydell joins us now to talk more about it. And, Laura, what is YouTube up to?

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All Tech Considered
1:25 am
Mon April 29, 2013

Blazing The Trail For Female Programmers

Sarah Allen works with interns Lori Hsu (left) and Fito von Zastrow at the Blazing Cloud offices in San Francisco.
Ramin Rahimian for NPR

Originally published on Tue April 30, 2013 3:35 pm

This story is part of our series, The Changing Lives of Women.

Sarah Allen has been the only woman on a team of computer programmers a few times in the more than two decades she has worked in the field. Most notably, she led the team — as the lone female programmer — that created Flash video, the dominant technology for streaming video on the Web.

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Movies
12:57 am
Tue April 9, 2013

Crowdsourcing Creativity At The Cinema

Twitter co-founder Biz Stone is one of five celebrity directors taking part in a Canon-sponsored experiment called Project Imaginat10n. His short film, the inspiration for which was crowdsourced via the Internet and social media, focuses on familial loss and the process of grieving.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

Originally published on Tue April 9, 2013 7:00 pm

These days, if they can't find a producer to fund their latest film, a lot of artists turn to crowdsourcing sites like Kickstarter to raise money for production.

But here's a new twist: a project headed up by director Ron Howard that is crowdsourcing the inspiration.

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All Tech Considered
3:17 pm
Mon April 1, 2013

'Bioshock Infinite': A First-Person Shooter, A Tragic Play

BioShock Infinite revolves around an Aristotelian tragedy with tragic heroes, grounded in a floating city set in 1912.
Courtesy of Irrational Games/2K Games

Originally published on Mon April 1, 2013 7:19 pm

In a first-person shooter video game, your targets range from zombies to soldiers, aliens or any other variation of "enemy." Most people wouldn't call that art. But BioShock Infinite creator Ken Levine says he's aiming to transform the genre.

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Business
2:40 am
Wed March 27, 2013

T-Mobile: Adds iPhone Ditches 2-Year Contracts

Originally published on Wed March 27, 2013 4:05 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Mobile phone carrier T-Mobile is trying to lift itself out of fourth place. At a press conference yesterday, it announced it was adding the iPhone to its line up and ditching two-year contracts.

But NPR's Laura Sydell reports that may not be enough.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: T-Mobile took a lot of digs at the two-year contracts all mobile carriers offer at its Manhattan press conference. It opened with real woman on the street video.

(SOUNDBITE OF AD)

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All Tech Considered
12:57 am
Thu March 21, 2013

On Its 7th Birthday, Is Twitter Still The 'Free Speech Party'?

Egyptians use their mobile phones to record celebrations in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the popular revolt that drove Hosni Mubarak from power in 2011. Twitter was often used to record happenings during the Arab Spring.
Mohammed Abed AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu March 21, 2013 7:23 am

It's hard to believe, but seven years ago no one had ever heard of a tweet. Thursday is the anniversary of the first tweet from Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey. It wasn't profound. He wrote:

Since then the social media company has been an important communication tool in everything from the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street, to its use as a megaphone for celebrities. Over the years, its relationship to its free speech principles has changed.

From Trivial To Global Town Hall

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Music News
3:14 am
Sat March 16, 2013

Arhoolie Records: 50 Years Of Digging For Down-Home Music

Strachwitz and Ry Cooder backstage at Arhoolie's 50th anniversary celebration.
Mike Melnyk Arhoolie Records

Originally published on Sat March 16, 2013 11:41 am

For the past 37 years, Down Home Music Store has sat on a lonely block in El Cerrito, Calif. For all that time, Chris Strachwitz has stocked the store with a treasure trove of American roots music. He produced many of the records filling Down Home's bins.

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Law
3:39 pm
Fri March 15, 2013

Reuters' Web Producer Indicted For Conspiring With Anonymous Hacking Group

A deputy editor for social media at Reuters has been indicted by the Justice Department for helping the hacker group Anonymous gain illegal access to the Tribune Company's servers. During the period in question, Matthew Keys had just been fired from a Tribune-owned TV station.

Technology
3:17 pm
Mon March 11, 2013

3-D Printing, Cat Videos The Hot Topic At SXSW Interactive Conference

Originally published on Mon March 11, 2013 3:36 pm

This week is the South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, Texas. It's where the big thinkers of the tech industry get together; this year's hot topics include 3-D printing and cat videos.

All Tech Considered
2:41 am
Mon March 11, 2013

Controlling Your Computer With A Wave Of Your Hand

Festival attendees experiment with Leap Motion technology.
Elise Hu NPR

Originally published on Mon March 11, 2013 6:48 am

If you've had wrist and shoulder pain from clicking a mouse, relief may be in sight. This spring, a new motion sensing device will go on sale that will make it possible for the average computer user to browse the Web and open documents with a wave of a finger.

The Leap Motion Controller is on display at the South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, Texas, for the first time. It's one of the most talked about startups at the conference, where some 26,000 people have gathered to see emerging tech companies.

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Business
3:01 pm
Mon February 25, 2013

To Become 'One Yahoo,' Tech Company Bans Telecommuting

Originally published on Mon February 25, 2013 5:23 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish, and it's time now for All Tech Considered.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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