One of the more interesting battles for listeners on the FM dial has been occurring slightly under the radar. The ratings for public news-talk stations WUOM-FM (91.7)/WFUM-FM (91.1) and WDET-FM (101.9) are close, but WUOM/WFUM’s 1.3 rating outpaced WDET’s 1.1 rating among all listeners this past spring. That’s startling with WDET’s focus on Detroit and WUOM being located in Ann Arbor (WFUM repeats WUOM from Flint). That 1.1 number for WDET is down from 1.4 in the spring of 2006, but holding steady from last fall. WDET is likely most concerned that there were an average of 7,900 people tuned in during any 15-minute period last spring, while during the fall and this spring there were only 6,300 listeners. While WDET does offer some unique programming from WUOM/WFUM, it appears that the station’s longtime status as the area’s most popular public radio station has been lost. In fact, the classical and jazz format on WRCJ-FM (90.9) sits ahead of WDET with a 1.2 rating in the spring. WRCJ also boasts an impressive average time spent listening number of 6.8 hours — meaning WRCJ listeners don’t do a lot of dial flipping when they have their radios on. In my observation, the buzz that WDET used to have around town when it was formatted with an eclectic mix of music and talk programs has now evaporated and the station has simply become just another public radio station. It used to be that wearing a WDET T-shirt or using a logo coffee mug made a statement to others. Now, finding unique content on WDET usually means sitting through a ton of programming that’s easily available someplace else. And other radio listeners look like they agree with that assessment as they stay away from WDET.
I've listened to WUOM whenever I need my NPR fix, and I find it's a no-frills public radio station. I stopped listening to WDET during a pledge drive, and found I liked some of the Public Radio International programs on WUOM like Marketplace, or the BBC news. I tuned into WDET for the eclectic music, which they managed to rid themselves of in April of 2007 (scroll down to the bottom of the Wikipedia article on WDET for a summary of what happened). In essence, the station tried to become the WUOM of the Detroit area. Unfortunately, the WDET brand was one of innovative music, and not news. Now that the station is trying to copy one of the other Public Radio Stations, it's losing their loyal fanbase (and if there was ever a question of loyalty of the WDET fanbase, let me tell you WDET had some of the best fans any radio station could ever hope to have). They've pissed that all away now; destroyed by trying to be something they aren't.