Ocala radio station changes its tune
Published: Monday, August 1, 2011 at 5:31 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, August 1, 2011 at 5:31 p.m.
After seven years of giving a home to oldies rock ‘n' roll, WMFQ 92.9-FM in Ocala has discarded the format and on Monday started broadcasting hot adult contemporary music.
The decision was made three months ago as part of the radio's station's effort to expand its audience, especially women listeners, said the station's operations director, Shane Finch.
Although the previous format, Big Oldies 92.9, had a loyal audience, the station was competing with other area stations for essentially the same demographic group: predominately men ages 40 and older.
“It was a bunch of people fighting for the same slice of pie,” Finch said.
While the station's previous format of 1960s-1980s rock and pop was enough to continue to pay the bills, Finch said hot adult contemporary music offered financial opportunities because it gives the station the potential to grow its audience. As for the station's previous format, Finch said, “if we just kind of freeze dried where we were, we would (have) seen diminishing returns,” citing the audience's increasing age.
The 5,000-watt station can be heard from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean.
Finch said the decision to change formats was made after discussions amongst the station's staff and did not originate from the station's owner, Asterisk Communications, Inc., based in Fort Lauderdale.
WMFQ's hot adult contemporary music will be similar to top 40, but slightly easier listening and will include such artists as Daughtry, Maroon 5, Katy Perry and John Mayer.
Finch said that if the format change attracts an additional 5 percent market share, the switch would have proved itself a financially wise one.
The change also allows the station's advertisers to reach a wider range of consumers, he said, adding that the new format generally attracts more educated listeners and higher financial earners.
The station will keep its disc jockeys and there won't be any layoffs, Finch said, although some will change time slots. He said his disc jockeys are versed in most types of music and won't have trouble with the change.
Although the change will disappoint some of its listeners, Finch said changing formats are not uncommon.
WMFQ began operating in 1977, broadcasting a pre-packaged format typically called “beautiful music,” which resembled easy listening. The station was the first in Ocala to broadcast 24 hours per day.
In 1989, the station switched to traditional easy listening, which Finch said resembled elevator music. Six years later, owner Robert Hauck sold the station to its current owners and WMFQ began broadcasting adult contemporary music.
In 2004, the station began its oldies format and kept it until the change this week.
Mark Brault has listened to Big Oldies since it began its format in 2004.
“It was my generation's music. It was comfortable. I could work with it. It made me feel good,” said the 52-year-old Brault. “But it went from my generation to my daughter's generation overnight.”
“I don't understand the change,” he said.
Brault said he and co-workers at a local machine parts supplier listened to the station at work. He thinks the station abandoned a faithful audience for a demographic thought to spend more money and be more attractive to advertisers.
“Big oldies will be sadly missed,” he said. “The day the music died again.”
Brault said the new format leaves WMFQ resembling most other stations, with little that's unique to offer listeners.
“It's business as usual in America,” he said.
The adult contemporary format grew in popularity during the early 1990s and began as a hybrid of the top 40 format. The change to adult contemporary for many stations meant phasing out 1960s music and later a halt to music from the 1970s.
Finch said WMFQ was the last station in the listening area with the classic 1960s-1980s rock and pop format, and listeners likely will have to turn to satellite radio to hear it now.