Marketing Pioneer P.K. Kannan Named Distinguished Scholar-Teacher

Skeptics pushed back in 1998 when marketing professor P.K. Kannan introduced a digital content revenue model at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. “This is pure science fiction,” one peer reviewer wrote. “This is so futuristic that it doesn’t have any basis in reality.”

Twenty years later, companies seeking to turn web traffic into profit have largely followed Kannan’s script. “Looking back on it, it’s not too far from what reality is,” the Distinguished Scholar-Teacher said on Oct. 1, 2018, during a career achievement celebration in his honor.

Kannan, one of six UMD Distinguished Scholar-Teacher award recipients for the 2018-19 academic year, addressed faculty, staff and students as part of the program’s annual lecture series. He is the Dean’s Chair in Marketing Science and recipient of multiple research and teaching awards.

Some of Kannan’s earliest work focused on digital marketing strategies in the days before social media, when commercial websites struggled with consumer demand for free content. Could subscription models work? Would advertisers pay for placement? If so, how much?

Kannan also explored the value of consumer data shared freely in virtual communities. The papers were advanced for their time, but Kannan gained traction as he narrowed his focus to pricing strategies for business information systems like LexisNexis.

“These findings are very useful,” he said. “Even now, if you think about online services like Netflix and Hulu and other content providers, much of the results that came up in this research can be applied.”

Kannan and his co-authors also studied consumer privacy issues, long before regulation debates heated up on Capitol Hill. “There will be a market for privacy and people will be willing to pay for that privacy,” Kannan said. “But overall, privacy as it was known in the early 2000s will cease to exist.”

As newspapers like the Wall Street Journal introduced paywalls — and service providers like Kindle introduced subscription models — Kannan also studied the pros and cons of free versus paid access. He also explored pricing strategies for the same content in different formats.

“How you price content became a very important problem,” he said. “If people buy a PDF, will they still want print? Can you bundle?”

The Distinguished Scholar-Teacher award, launched in 1978, honors Maryland faculty members who excel in academic research and classroom instruction. The award is vetted by a panel of former Distinguished Scholar-Teacher awardees and the Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs.

Smith School dean Alexander Triantis introduced Kannan and described him as an accomplished researcher and master teacher. “P.K. has dedicated his research to creating practical solutions to real-world industry challenges,” Triantis said. “He has collaborated with industry leaders, Fortune 500 companies and other disciplines to decipher customer behavior, increase customer loyalty and invigorate product design.”

Smith School Honorees

The Smith School has produced 18 Distinguished Scholar-Teacher award recipients.

2018: P.K. Kannan2017: Rajshree Agarwal2014: Gilad Chen
2013: Michel Wedel2011: Ritu Agarwal2010: Curt Grimm
2004: Michael Fu2002: M. Susan Taylor2000: Bruce Golden
1998: Saul Gass1997: Anil Gupta1995: Ken Smith
1994: Maryam Alavi1993: Lee Preston1989: Kathryn Bartol
1984: Samuel Kotz1983: Edwin A. Locke1979: Stephen Carroll


This article originally appeared on the University of Maryland Smith news page (find it here) on October 2, 2018.


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