Marketing professor Yi Zhu shares answers to five questions that reveal the issues he's studying, following, teaching, and reading about today. Plus a peek into the life he imagines, were he not teaching at the Carlson School. 

Q: What is/are your current area(s) of research? What business challenges are you helping to solve?

A: The rise of digital technology is profoundly reshaping human behavior and interactions. But the online space is rife with abusive behavior and untoward practices, such as biased media coverage, excessive advertising, and fraudulent activity. My research identifies challenges that arise from the rapid adoption of digitalization, more specifically, my research examines:

  1. News: How does an increasing number of online media outlets affect the type and amount of news that is reported? My research found it decreases fact-based news reporting while increasing opinion-based content.
  2. Advertising: Can a better understanding of people’s media viewing habits help decrease the amount of advertising? I found that improving the coordination of communication might reduce excessive online ads, which benefits both consumers and companies.
  3. Fraud: What are the most effective ways to reduce online fraud and protect individual consumers and small businesses? I found that businesses would benefit from using a neutral third party to audit fraud detection algorithms by search engines. Such a party could protect consumers and businesses, while maintaining the confidentiality needed by the whole industry.

Online Media Outlets

How does an increasing number of online media outlets affect the type and amount of news that is reported? 

Q: What current business issues or stories in the news are you following and why?

A: I have been following the presidential election closely. It is interesting to see some news organizations to provide the “right kind” of facts in order to attract a desired audience. Concomitantly, news organizations ignore or downplay other facts that do not resonate with their desired audience’s viewpoints.

Q: What is your favorite class to teach?

A: Marketing Strategy. It is quite a challenging class because it is a capstone course for undergraduate students majoring in marketing. I try to create a fun, fair, and relevant yet challenging learning environment that requires cooperation as well as competition in my class, and to help students learn to be critical thinkers and effective problem solvers, so that they can become strong competitors in their future professional careers. To achieve these goals, I tried to stay away from one-way communication in the classroom, using instead a number of different approaches to encourage individuals to participate. I found that my past working experience in sales, advertising, and consulting helped me greatly in class. More importantly, I found that teaching and interacting with students could actually help my research, and that scholarship and teaching are closely intertwined.

Communication Methods

I tried to stay away from one-way communication in the classroom, using instead a number of different approaches to encourage individuals to participate.

Q: If you weren’t a business school professor, what would you be doing?

A: I would definitely be a consultant. I had a lot of experiences in it and I love it.

Q: What is the best book you’ve read in the past year?

A: The Art of Strategy.