After 47 years and hundreds of thousands of hours of airtime, Toledo’s longest-operating Christian radio station has a new sound, a new name and a new vibe.
WPOS-FM (102.3), based in Holland, Ohio, has been rebranded “Proclaim FM,” and is looking to draw more families and listeners in their 30s and 40s. It revealed its new format at 6 a.m. Monday (Sept. 9) and held a “ribbon-cutting” ceremony later that day at its headquarters on Angola Road.
“We wanted to continue to take care of the current audience, but also start reaching families again,” said Craig Magrum, general manager. “So that’s what’s been driving a lot of the changes and the thought process about what is going on.”
When the station first went on the air in 1966, it appealed to Christian audiences of all ages. But over the decades it has become increasingly identified with an older demographic that favors traditional southern gospel quartets, such as the Cathedrals and the Kingsmen.
Magrum, 37, said he has “just kept running into” the perception that WPOS is “the older Christian station.” Changing that image and appealing to broader audiences have been part of the mission since he started working at the 6,000-watt station in June, 2012.
While praying about whether to take the job as general manager, Magrum said he felt a need to ask the 12-member board of directors about their vision for the station’s future.
“When I got to the interview, I didn’t even get to ask the question,” he said. “The board told me they realized that they needed to start reaching out to a younger audience.”
To shake the stubborn perception that WPOS is for gray-haired listeners only, Magrum realized that major changes were necessary — including a new name and logo.
“The call letters WPOS have always stood for ‘We Proclaim Our Savior,’” he said. “And I was just going through those words and the word ‘Proclaim’ just really jumped out at me.”
He discussed it with the station’s one other full-time employee, program director Cliff Smithers, whose “eyes lit up,” Magrum said. The duo presented the idea to WPOS’s board last spring and the name change was approved unanimously.
“We’re still keeping our call letters but we’re calling ourselves Proclaim FM,” Magrum said. “We’re going to proclaim good news to the community.”
Smithers, who has been in radio for 24 years and joined WPOS in March, 2012, helped choose the station’s new playlist and is host of the afternoon drive-time program. He said his goal is to “be encouraging” through music and programming and “to have a positive message that will encourage those individuals that are saved and even the unsaved.”
The station is now playing songs by artists “from Casting Crowns to Tobymac, and everything in between,” Smithers said.
Focus groups were consulted to hone the new playlist and to fine tune programming and teaching shows.
Ending McGee’s long-running program “was a tough one,” Magrum said. “He had a great ministry and we respect that. A lot of people got saved through his ministry. We have to recognize that. But we also have to recognize that he died 25 years ago, and even though, yes, the word never changes, delivery styles do and relevance to today’s world changes as well, and we thought Dr. MacDonald was great followup to Dr. McGee’s ministry.”
Magrum and Smithers said WPOS will continue to honor its heritage by playing traditional southern gospel music, but it is expanding its musical offerings to include contemporary southern gospel, adult-contemporary Christian music, and contemporary praise and worship.
Among the artists now heard on WPOS are Jesus Culture, Third Day, Red Roots, Chris Tomlin, Sara Groves, Francisca Battistelli, and MercyMe.
“Southern gospel has always been a part of our heritage and we recognize that there are still a lot of people who like southern gospel music,” Magrum said. “We don’t want to abandon that crowd. But at the same time, recognizing trends, we want to move forward with other styles as well.”
He said the target audience is families, and shows such as the “Adventures in Odyssey” drama offer entertainment for children as well as their parents.
Magrum made a point of saying that Proclaim FM is not competing with YES-FM (89.3), whose Christian rock sound draws a younger demographic.
“Musically we are not really aiming for teenagers or twentysomethings, because YES-FM is dedicated to that and we respect that,” said Magrum, who worked at YES for eight years. “We’re partners in ministry, we’re not trying to compete with them. So we’re mostly going for middle-aged and older adults, but also reaching kids with programs.”
He acknowledged, however, that Proclaim FM’s quest for Christian listeners in their 30s and 40s will pit the station against nationally syndicated station K-Love (broadcast locally on 96.9-FM). It was people in that age range who helped WPOS get started when the station first went on the air 47 years ago, he said.
“It’s a David versus Goliath scenario, definitely,” Magrum said of competing with K-Love.
He is confident, however, that even though K-Love is a national station with a big budget and a polished presentation, local Christians will want to support local Christian radio.
“We know the church community a lot more intimately. We know the pastors, we know the congregations. I think all of our staff grew up in this area, so, yeah, we would like the K-Love listeners to come back to Proclaim FM,” Magrum said.