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
4:31 am
Wed February 20, 2013

Law Change Makes It Harder To Unlock Cellphones

Originally published on Wed February 20, 2013 7:41 am

Maybe you don't like your mobile phone carrier, but you like your phone and you want to keep it but change providers. An obscure change in federal law makes it illegal to switch without permission from your carrier.

If you have, for example, AT&T, in order to switch to T-Mobile you have to unlock the phone, and AT&T can now stop you from doing that.

The change in the copyright law has some people upset, and they're petitioning the White House for a fix.

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Business
4:42 am
Wed February 13, 2013

Comcast To Complete NBCUniversal Buyout Early

Comcast Corp. said Tuesday it will complete its buyout of NBCUniversal from GE for about $16.7 billion, ahead of schedule. Comcast, the nation's largest cable company, has owned 51 percent of NBCUniversal since their $28 billion merger in 2011.

Business
3:15 am
Thu January 24, 2013

Despite Brisk Sales, Apple Has Flat Sales

Originally published on Thu January 24, 2013 11:19 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

NPR's business news begins with a bite out of Apple.

It's still the largest tech company in the world - let's make no mistake about that. But Apple reported yesterday that its profits were flat - despite brisk sales of iPhones and iPads. In after-hours trading, Apple's stock plunged, reflecting fears that interest in Apple products may start waning as consumers seek more affordable options.

Here's NPR's Laura Sydell.

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Business
4:41 am
Fri January 18, 2013

Amazon Starts Music Store For Apple Devices

Originally published on Fri January 18, 2013 7:11 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

NPR's business news starts with Apple and Amazon.

People who own iPhones, iPads and iPods will now be able to purchase music from Amazon directly onto those devices. NPR's Laura Sydell reports on Amazon's latest attempt to compete with iTunes.

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All Tech Considered
12:09 am
Wed January 16, 2013

'It's About Time': Facebook Reveals New Search Feature

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., on Tuesday.
Jeff Chiu AP

Originally published on Wed January 16, 2013 6:47 am

Facebook has launched a new feature that will let its users search for more detailed information across the social network. Soon, you'll be able to find the restaurants and TV shows your friends like or see every picture they've taken at the Grand Canyon.

As much as users may like the new features, the company hasn't exactly been a Wall Street darling. So, the new feature may be less about you and me and more about Facebook's bottom line.

"It's about time," Nate Elliott, an analyst at Forrester Research, said about the new feature. "It should have been there all along."

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All Tech Considered
3:45 pm
Mon January 7, 2013

Why Is Google Exec Interested In North Korea?

Google's Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt (left) arrives at Pyongyang International Airport on Monday. There is speculation that Schmidt's presence in North Korea could have an upside for Google by positioning Schmidt as the company's global ambassador.
David Guttenfelder AP

Originally published on Mon January 7, 2013 4:39 pm

Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, has landed in North Korea. His trip there is a bit of a mystery.

Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, has been a vocal proponent of providing people around the world with Internet access and technology. North Korea doesn't even let its citizens access the open Internet, and its population is overwhelmingly poor — so it's not exactly a coveted audience for advertisers.

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All Tech Considered
2:12 pm
Mon December 31, 2012

From 3-D Printers To Wired Glasses, The Tech Year Ahead

Google Glass will be part of a trend in 2013 of computing and connectivity in devices we don't generally think of as computers.
Seth Wenig AP

Originally published on Mon December 31, 2012 6:17 pm

It's unlikely 2013 will be the year that jet packs make it big, but the coming year could bring us a host of other new technology trends and products, such as 3-D printers for consumers, smarter smartphones and more connected devices like glasses and cars.

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Technology
1:28 am
Thu December 27, 2012

Music-Streaming Services Hunt For Paying Customers

Originally published on Thu December 27, 2012 6:58 am

2012 has been a strange year for content creators — authors, producers, musicians. It was a year when the very idea of physical ownership of a book or CD or even a song file became almost passe.

It was also the year in which music-streaming services like Spotify and Pandora launched major efforts to convince people to pay for something they didn't own. But it's been slow going.

Music-streaming services have been trying to win over two types of customers: a younger generation that doesn't buy at all and an older generation that still likes owning physical albums.

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All Tech Considered
1:21 am
Wed December 26, 2012

Online Videos: Not Just Made By Amateurs Anymore

iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed December 26, 2012 4:07 am

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All Tech Considered
3:09 pm
Mon December 17, 2012

Don't Like The Government? Make Your Own, On International Waters

Andras Gyorfi's winning entry in The Seasteading Institute's 2009 design contest. The institute supports the idea of permanent, autonomous offshore communities, but it does not intend to construct its own seasteads.
Courtesy of The Seasteading Institute

Originally published on Mon December 17, 2012 8:19 pm

Almost all of us have complaints about the government, which probably range from high taxes to too much bureaucracy. Periodically, we get to take our frustrations out at the voting booth. But no matter how unhappy you may be, you probably never thought, "I'm going get out of here and go start my own country."

A group of rich techies in Northern California is planning on starting its own nation on artificial islands in the ocean. They call themselves "seasteaders" and are sort of a mix between geeks and hippies.

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All Tech Considered
4:31 pm
Mon December 3, 2012

Which Tablet Is Right For You?

The new Microsoft Surface tablet on display after a press conference in New York in October. The Microsoft tablet goes up against products from Apple, Amazon and Google.
Timothy A. Clary AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon December 3, 2012 4:50 pm

The holiday season is upon us. In the tech world, that means it's time to talk gadgets, specifically one of the year's most popular gadgets: the tablet.

For the first time, Apple's iPad has some competition: Google's Nexus, Amazon's Kindle Fire HD and the Microsoft Surface.

These tablets represent the marquee efforts of the biggest technology companies. They also represent the four major content universes.

Small Tablets

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All Tech Considered
3:37 pm
Thu November 29, 2012

Yet Another Shift In Facebook Policies Raises Privacy Concerns

Joerg Koch AP

Facebook has a long history of upsetting its users by suddenly announcing a change to its privacy settings. In 2009, as a way to quiet the critics, Facebook set up a system for its customers to vote on changes. If enough of them were unhappy, the company would back down. Now, Facebook wants to get rid of the voting.

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Around the Nation
3:37 am
Wed November 14, 2012

Sandy Deals Powerful Blow To Housing In New Jersey

Originally published on Wed November 14, 2012 6:06 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer.

More than two weeks after Sandy hit the Northeast, thousands of people in New Jersey are still unable to return to their homes. And as NPR's Laura Sydell reports, finding temporary housing has proven to be a confusing and difficult process for many storm victims.

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The Record
10:03 pm
Wed November 7, 2012

Studying How, And What, We Download

Drake, who had the top torrent downloaded in the U.S. in the first half of 2012, according to Musicmetric, poses at the MTV Video Music Awards in September.
Frederick M. Brown Getty Images

Originally published on Thu November 8, 2012 10:27 am

As we near the end of another year, the music industry has a few reasons to be optimistic. Digital music sales are expected to reach record highs this year, and legal streaming services continue to gain in popularity. But unauthorized music file sharing is still going strong.

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Business
5:47 am
Wed October 24, 2012

Apple Unveils Pencil-Thin iPad Mini

Originally published on Wed October 24, 2012 4:36 pm

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

OK. Let's talk a little more about a small screen. Of course, Apple has dominated the tablet computer market with its iPad. The company says it's sold 100 million of them, but it's had some competition from smaller rivals - smaller screens, that is. Amazon's Kindle and Google's Nexus can easily fit in a purse, or even a jacket pocket. So, as expected, yesterday, Apple introduced a smaller version of the iPad - bigger than an iPhone, smaller than the iPad, the iPad Mini. NPR's Laura Sydell reports.

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All Tech Considered
4:36 pm
Tue October 23, 2012

Hands On With The New iPad Mini: Lighter, Costlier Than Rivals

The new iPad Mini is displayed after its unveiling at an Apple event in San Jose, Calif., on Tuesday.
Kevork Djansezian Getty Images

Originally published on Wed October 24, 2012 9:29 am

Apple has unveiled a smaller, cheaper version of its popular iPad tablet. NPR's Laura Sydell attended the event Tuesday in San Jose, Calif., and got a hands-on look at the new iPad mini. Below are her first impressions.

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Books
3:12 pm
Thu October 4, 2012

Google, Publishers Reach Deal On Book Scanning Plan

Originally published on Thu October 25, 2012 10:19 am

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. Today, a long legal battle came to an end. On one side, Google; on the other, book publishers. The two have reached an agreement to resolve a lawsuit that's dragged on for seven years. But this does not end Google's legal trouble, as it tries to digitize the world's books. An even more important lawsuit remains unresolved - with thousands of authors of those books that Google has scanned. NPR's Laura Sydell reports.

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The Record
10:03 pm
Wed September 26, 2012

YouTube Shares Ad Revenue With Musicians, But Does It Add Up?

Donna Summer in 1976. YouTube's Chris Maxcy says the company targets advertising to videos by artists like her and gives a share of the revenue from it to the track's label and publisher.
Keystone Getty Images

Originally published on Thu September 27, 2012 8:04 am

YouTube is well-known for videos, but a recent Nielsen study revealed 64 percent of teens and young adults go to it to listen to and discover music. The free website, which is owned by Google, has set up advertising deals to help musicians get compensated. But it's not clear how they're getting paid — or how much.

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The Record
1:28 am
Wed September 26, 2012

How Musicians Make Money (By The Fraction Of A Cent) On Spotify

Erin McKeown is currently recording her ninth studio album, to be released this fall.
Michael Weintrob Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu September 27, 2012 3:23 pm

The streaming music service Spotify has garnered some 2 million users in the U.S. since its introduction a little over a year ago. The service includes many big acts like Katy Perry, but many musicians have mixed feelings about it. Some, like Adele and Coldplay, resisted putting new albums on Spotify, citing the service's low royalty payments to musicians. Others, like the Black Keys, won't allow full albums on the service at all.

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The Record
4:17 pm
Fri September 21, 2012

Universal's Purchase Of EMI Gets Thumbs Up In U.S. And Europe

The catalog of The Beatles, which was owned by EMI, will be among the assets that the Universal Music Group gets to keep.
Jim Gray Getty Images

Originally published on Thu October 4, 2012 1:20 pm

And then there were three — record labels, that is. Regulators in the United States and Europe have approved the acquisition of EMI Music by Univeral Music Group. The combined label will own close to 40 percent of the world music market with a trove of acts that includes The Beatles.

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Digital Life
3:06 pm
Thu September 20, 2012

Vimeo's Virtual Tip Jar Invites Viewers To Chip In

The video sharing site Vimeo has added a feature that invites users to chip in to support the filmmakers they like.
Vimeo

Originally published on Thu September 20, 2012 4:04 pm

From teenagers strumming guitars in their bedrooms to big studio executives in Hollywood, there are a lot of people trying to figure out how to make money from online videos. The video-sharing site Vimeo has just added to their site a feature with a time-tested history in the real world — a virtual tip jar.

Electric-bass player Brian Compton has been a musician for 20 years. He plays with a three-piece band on a San Francisco street corner and hopes for tips from afternoon commuters. He estimates that less than 1 percent of passersby actually leave a tip.

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Business
1:29 pm
Tue September 18, 2012

Google's Digital Library Plan Hits Another Snag

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Google's plan to create the world's largest digital library ran into legal problems when groups of authors sued to defend the rights to their work. If that sounds like an old story that's because it is. The lawsuit, now in its 11th year, has run into yet another legal delay.

NPR's Laura Sydell reports.

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Technology
3:58 pm
Wed September 12, 2012

Apple's New iPhone 5 Is Thinner, Lighter Than Before

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Apple introduced its newest iPhone today, and it's thinner and larger than the last. The company also introduced a new line of iPods. NPR's Laura Sydell has more.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: The new iPhone has a four-inch screen, and it's about 20 percent lighter. Apple CEO Tim Cook engaged in typical Apple boosting as he spoke about the iPhone 5.

TIM COOK: The thinnest, lightest and best iPhone we have ever shipped.

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All Tech Considered
3:10 pm
Mon September 10, 2012

What Will Apple's Patent Case Mean For Phone Design?

These Nokia phones unveiled earlier this month are the first smartphones built for Windows 8.
Spencer Platt Getty Images

Originally published on Mon September 10, 2012 4:52 pm

A lot of thought goes into giving your smartphone a distinctive look and feel, from the shape of the speaker — square, round or oval — to where to put the buttons — side, front or back.

But industrial designers like Robert Brunner say he doesn't have a lot of room to be creative.

"Because you're really being so heavily driven on maintaining a minimal physical size," he says. "So you really get into this very fine envelope of a few millimeters that you have to work with."

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