Clear Channel Hopes "Fresh" Doesn't Spoil Audience Core

Anyone looking forward to a return to the Adult Contemporary format WNIC-FM has aired for nearly 35 years outside the holiday season will be sorely disappointed in the New Year.  This week, Clear Channel reported not a format change but a format ‘update.’ In other words, the former “Detroit’s Nicest Rock” is not looking to eschew its  core audience but, rather, infuse a more contemporary mix of artists designed to appeal to evolving listener tastes.

According to Operations Manager Todd Thomas, this will mean the addition of musical acts heretofore unheard at 100.3 FM, including Kid Rock, along with more from the likes of Usher, Train, Taylor Swift and others.

It’s a bold move. On the one hand, WNIC has a time-worn and tested image in this city.  It’s where women 25-54 (and older) go to get their fix of Elton John, Celine Dion and others. The fact is, WNIC’s music has been tired for far too long (part of what led to rocker WLLZ’s downfall in the late 90s). As such, too much Gloria Gaynor and Pointer Sisters has driven a once dedicated audience to more musically up-to-date competitors such as Magic and WDVD, both of which routinely best ‘NIC in the ratings. At the same time, the station’s core demo continues to skew older than intended and desirable.

There’s no doubting this is a gamble. At times now, “Fresh 100.3” will be competing with sister station Channel 9-5-5, in particular through the battling morning shows of Jay Towers and Mojo, respectively. Musically, WNIC could end up sounding almost identical to WMGC and ‘DVD.  And, no offense to Towers but ‘NIC’s recent history of brooming top, well-known air talent (Chris Edmonds, Kevin O’Neill, Lori Bennett and others) will not help the “updated” station stand apart in that regard.

At the same time, perhaps this will be just the shot in the arm this station has needed since 1998 when Jim Harper left the fold. Better music should help but one would hope the ‘powers that be’ also focus on promotion and personality.  Towers’ talent and popularity are a good foundation. It should make for an interesting listen.