column written by Art Vuolo, Jr.
First of all, Happy New Year to all radio fans and readers of michiguide.com. 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 www.mcrr2010.com 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.
The "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.