Vuolo: Nothing fresh about the "new" WNIC

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column written by Art Vuolo, Jr.

VuoloFirst of all, Happy New Year to all radio fans and readers of Next week I'll be heading to the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show for a few days and reporting back to you what exciting new "toys" I see in Las Vegas. Also, I promise to write on a more regular basis in the new year. The huge Motor City Radio Reunion took a great deal of my time during the past year. If you haven't checked out the web site please do; you can see a 9 minute video preview of the DVD which I had the pleasure of editing together to commemorate that spectacular event last September.

So, I get this press release from a radio station that I, for many years, have had tremendous respect for. It boasts about the "new" WNIC which has now been re-branded as "Fresh 100.3." My friends and radio fans, there is NOTHING fresh about the "Fresh" brand. It has been done all over the country and there is no way that during the last couple of weeks of this year that I would honestly believe an extensive listener survey was taken to determine what WNIC listeners really want to hear.

One of the first "Fresh" stations was put on in New York City, where the legendary WNEW-FM "Where Rock Lives" was re-branded as "Fresh 102.7" and even the heritage WNEW call-letters were dropped. Amazing. In Chicago, the longtime WCKG changed to "Fresh 105.9" and in city after city, this "radio flavor of the month" has been procreating itself as something "new" for that particular market. I have always said that in the radio business there seems to be no shortage of carbon paper. That term has become very out-dated as many people don't even know what carbon paper is anymore. The point is that there is a serious lack of creativity and original ideas in radio programming. If something catches on in a particular part of the country and gets ratings, they immediately clone it all over the country, often using the same name in each city.

When the Jack-FM format hit about 3 years ago, it took on variations in cities nationwide. The Jack name was not always used. In Philadelphia, it was Ben, up in Saginaw it's Mike, Fort Wayne is was Joe and here in Detroit it's known as Doug. The "Fresh" brand seems, however, to use the fresh name in each place that it appears. I think what bothered me the most about the alteration at 100.3 FM locally is the owners seemingly unconcern for the value of the WNIC call-letters and name. WNIC, which originally stood for NICe, has been the name at 100.3 FM ever since 1972 when it changed from WKNR-FM. That is a run of nearly 40 years and should not be tossed out in such a uncaring manner. The name 100.3 WNIC rolled off the tongue and was and is well-known in the Detroit area. It will take some time to get all listeners to the station to refer to it be this "new" name.

Fresh 100.3The "Fresh" logo is also the same color in most markets, and that color is a shade of teal. Since direct format competitor WMGC-FM (105.1) Magic has a logo of a similar color, WNIC's new Fresh logo is more of a coral color.

Excuse the rant, and this was not designed to make enemies at Clear Channel Radio Detroit, which owns WNIC, but just some observations from myself regarding a change that I didn't feel was anymore necessary than when they chased talents like Kevin O'Neill, Chris Edmonds, Dave Lockhart and Lisa Barry out of the building. Listeners were comfortable with 100.3 WNIC. Country listeners were said to have selected the new name for 106.7 FM as "The Fox" and we all know how long that lasted....less than 2 years. Listeners did NOT choose that name. Management needs to release that radio listeners are smarter that they often realize.

Let's see if this latest "fresh idea" catches on. In New York, the premier Fresh station took a long time to garner acceptable ratings. We will watch and listen to see if this was a good move in the new year for the once venerable, and once NICe 100.3 WNIC.

Art Vuolo Jr.



One minor correction - the station in Saginaw is Joe FM, and the Lansing station is Mike FM. I know....does it really make any difference with all of the "Jack" formats out there?

Amen. Long gone are the days of most of our "radio heros" when corporate America has taken control of what used to be local. Our parents had J.P., Dick Purtan & stations like Honey Radio. We had Jim Harper, Arthur P. & stations like WDTX. Don't get me wrong, there were many others as well, & some of those are still around too but it almost seems like WCSX & WMGC are the only stations left where "our" idols can still feel somewhat secure at least.

I used to want to be a "DJ" but now thank goodness there is broadcast engineering & voiceover work that I can still feel a part of the business.

I hope it works well for Clear Channel & Fresh 100.3.


There are a few differences that need to be addressed. All the other "Fresh" branded stations are owned by CBS. Clear Channel is licensing the name from CBS for use in Detroit. That is why the logo is not the usual teal ball. If you want to make a comparison to what WNIC is doing, take a look at Mix 106.1 in Philadelphia which rebranded last month from "My 106.1". Both of those stations have a direct link in Jay Towers, who is involved with both.

WNEW was an also ran for almost 15 years with the exception of the success Opie & Anthony had from 1999-2002. Many books can be written on what went wrong with WNEW, but blaming demise of WNEW for why "Fresh" is a bland concept is a little off. WNEW went through four formats between 2002 and 2007 before becoming Fresh. It's now in the Top 5 in all of its target demos and overall cume.

Listeners may have been comfortable with WNIC, but to many WNIC was their mom's and grandma's station. Heritage and legacy can go both ways. Clear Channel wants to get 100.3 younger and the WNIC name may have been holding it back.

I'm not going to argue on the lack of creativity in radio as it continues to target the lowest common denominator in most cases. There are a few bright spots as this week we've seen some new monikers arise like "Crush" and "Click" and the first major market Easy Listening station to come along in quite some time.

Lance Venta






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This page contains a single entry by Mike Austerman published on December 29, 2010 9:06 PM.

Metro Detroit: Newsmakers Dec. 28, 2010 was the previous entry in this blog.

West Michigan: Newsmakers Dec. 30, 2010 is the next entry in this blog.

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