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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1:28am

Thu December 27, 2012
Technology

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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1:21am

Wed December 26, 2012
All Tech Considered

Online Videos: Not Just Made By Amateurs Anymore

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

iStockphoto.com

3:09pm

Mon December 17, 2012
All Tech Considered

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

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

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

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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4:08pm

Mon December 3, 2012
All Tech Considered

Which Tablet Is Right For You?

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

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

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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3:25pm

Thu November 29, 2012
All Tech Considered

Yet Another Shift In Facebook Policies Raises Privacy Concerns

Originally published on Thu November 29, 2012 3:37 pm

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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10:03pm

Wed November 7, 2012
The Record

Studying How, And What, We Download

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

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

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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2:39am

Thu October 25, 2012
All Tech Considered

Watching TV Online Often Exposes Slow Bandwidth

Originally published on Thu October 25, 2012 9:20 am

In much of America, the availability of online video is often frustrated by slow broadband speeds. In this 2011 photo, Valerie Houde waits for a dial-up Internet connection in East Burke, Vt.
Andy Duback AP

There are more ways than ever to watch TV programs on the Internet, from Netflix and Amazon to Hulu. But many viewers discover that watching TV on the Web can be frustrating. Their favorite show might suddenly stop, stutter and be replaced by a note that reads "buffering." The problem is lack of bandwidth: The data that is the video just can't squeeze through the wires and onto the screen.

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4:36pm

Tue October 23, 2012
All Tech Considered

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

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

The new iPad Mini is displayed after its unveiling at an Apple event in San Jose, Calif., on Tuesday.
Kevork Djansezian Getty Images
  • Hear Laura Sydell's Story On Morning Edition

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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3:12pm

Thu October 4, 2012
Books

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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10:03pm

Wed September 26, 2012
The Record

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

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

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

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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4:53pm

Fri September 21, 2012
The Record

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

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

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

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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3:58pm

Wed September 12, 2012
Technology

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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3:10pm

Mon September 10, 2012
All Tech Considered

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

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

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

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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1:18am

Fri August 24, 2012
All Tech Considered

Is The Cloud In Gamers' Future?

Originally published on Fri August 24, 2012 9:56 am

Nintendo's Wii U is the only new game system on the horizon as console makers are having a hard time figuring out how to improve on what they've got.
Kevork Djansezian Getty Images

Last year, consumers spent $17 billion on video games. That sounds like a lot, but it was nearly $1.5 billion lower than the previous year. One reason: there haven't been any new game consoles out to excite buyers.

Only Nintendo's Wii U might be on shelves for the holiday season.

The console makers are having a hard time figuring out how to improve on what they've got.

Try asking a gamer like Ryan Block what would entice him to drop a few hundred bucks on a new console.

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3:04am

Mon July 30, 2012
Technology

Samsung Fight Among Many In Apple's Patent War

Originally published on Mon July 30, 2012 7:01 am

Samsung Electronics' Galaxy S (left) and Apple's iPhone 4 are displayed at the headquarters of South Korean mobile carrier KT. Apple claims some of Samsung's designs violate its patents.
Ahn Young-joon AP

An epic battle between the two biggest smartphone makers begins Monday in a federal district court in San Jose, Calif., where computing giant Apple is asking for more than $2.5 billion from rival phone maker Samsung for patent violations.

The suit would be the most expensive patent violation in history, and it's just one front in Apple's war against phones running Google's Android operating system.

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2:24pm

Fri July 27, 2012
The Record

The Race To Create A Music Superlabel Still Faces Hurdles

Originally published on Tue September 18, 2012 5:26 pm

Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group Lucian Grainge (left) and Roger Faxon, the CEO of EMI Group, testify during a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on Universal's proposed merger with EMI.
Alex Wong Getty Images

It's been a tough decade for the music industry. Revenues have tumbled — from more than $14 billion in 1999 down to $7 billion last year. EMI, one of the big four record labels, was taken over by venture capitalists and then taken over again, after they defaulted, by Citigroup. Now, Universal Music Group wants to buy the recorded music division of EMI for $1.9 billion. But critics say if the two companies merge it will create a superlabel that will dominate the music industry.

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5:09am

Thu July 19, 2012
Business

Yahoo May Be Marissa Mayer's Biggest Challenge Yet

Originally published on Thu July 19, 2012 6:00 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

We're going to hear more now about the woman taking the reins of one of Silicon Valley's most famous and challenged companies. Marissa Mayer took the tech world by surprise this week when it was announced she was taking the CEO job at Yahoo. The buzz grew louder when it came out she's pregnant and planning on working during her maternity leave.

Mayer is known for being one of Google's first employees and its first female engineer. NPR's Laura Sydell has this profile of Mayer and what she brings to her new job at Yahoo.

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5:04pm

Tue July 17, 2012
All Tech Considered

New Yahoo CEO Among A Rare Few: Women Execs With Tech Creds

Originally published on Tue July 17, 2012 6:49 pm

Marissa Mayer left Google to become the CEO of Yahoo. She was Google's 20th hire and is responsible for the look and feel of many of Google's major products.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

3:51am

Thu June 28, 2012
Business

Google Is The Latest To Get Into Computer Tablets

Originally published on Thu June 28, 2012 10:34 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Google opened its World Wide Developers conference yesterday with a few announcements — the most notable is its entry into the highly competitive tablet market.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: As NPR's Laura Sydell reports, with the Nexus 7, Google is headed for a market somewhere between the Amazon Fire and Apple's iPad.

It's called the Nexus 7 because it's a seven-inch tablet. Google also announced more content for its online store. In addition to music, movies and books, they will have TV shows and magazines.

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2:23pm

Tue June 26, 2012
NPR Story

Facebook's E-mail Change Rankles Users

Originally published on Wed June 27, 2012 4:52 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.

What do your friends see on Facebook when they look for your email address? It might not be what you think. In the past few days, Facebook automatically changed the email contacts it displays without clearly notifying users about what it was doing.

As NPR's Laura Sydell reports, lots of people on Facebook are not happy.

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