The AWNA is a not-for-profit trade association of 100+ community newspapers in Alberta and the Northwest Territories.


Traditionally, the group's activities have fallen under three broad categories
  • provides education opportunities for members through workshops, encourages excellence through the BNC awards program and the exchange of industry information through meetings held each year;
  • raises awareness of our medium among advertisers and enhances the industry's profile;
  • takes industry issues to various levels of government.
Major changes in AWNA's evolution
Although formed in 1920, AWNA operated more as a fraternal organization until it was incorporated in 1975. During that year, a part-time Secretary-Manager - Bill Draayer - was hired. (Prior to 1975, George Meyer, publisher of the Taber Times, fulfilled that function on a voluntary basis.)  In the late 1970s, a One Order-One Bill advertising service was launched, allowing advertisers to reach all of the province’s weeklies through the association. Then in 1982, a province-wide readership survey was conducted and its results were communicated to agency/advertiser personnel in Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton. This survey is credited with putting our Association and its members on the map and firmly established AWNA as a leader among newspaper associations across Canada. It was a crowning achievement for Bill Draayer, who retired in September of that year, following the survey launch.
New direction

Dennis Merrell, the Association's current Executive Director, joined the AWNA in June of 1982, and became its Executive Director in May of 1983.  The AWNA computerized its advertising service that year, and then took a major step forward in 1985 by hiring a full-time Marketing Representative to help it deal with its growing list of clientele.

The Association has steadily expanded its services over the years and continued to record industry milestones, such as:

  • introducing the first Volume Incentive Program (V.I.P.). The program encourages advertisers to purchase additional volume in order to qualify for a reduced national line rate in AWNA community weeklies. The association has since added a Retail Rate card for qualified clients;
  • the first Canadian association to develop a GIS (Geographic Information System) to help in the marketing of its member newspapers; 
  • the first to contribute toward the establishment of a distance education program in journalism;
  • the first to develop an online Advertising Sales program, launched in the fall of 2006;
  • the first Association (in 1991) to organize an annual Newspaper Symposium for its members and staff;
  • the AWNA and its members continue to be leaders in the new digital age of community newspaper publishing. Most of its members now publish websites, all are fully paginated and using digital photography.  Some have even adopted computer-to-plate technology with the arrival of equipment that images RIP’ed files directly onto plates – another first for community papers in Canada;
  • the first association to develop an online digital archive.  Called AWSOM Archive, this service has opened up new revenue possibilities for the community newspaper industry in Canada and the U.S. AWNA now operates this service fully in-house and exports its service to community newspapers outside Alberta, in addition to digitizing its  member newspapers;
  • the first association to convert 100% to digital tear sheets. E-tears were rolled out to all national advertising clients on September 1, 2008;
  • developing a state-of-the-art, fully-integrated, advertising management system that allows advertisers and members to conduct their business fully online.


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