The Northern Advocate was launched in 1875 by George Edwin Alderton under the title Whangarei Comet and Northern Advertiser. In 1877 the title changed to the Northern Advocate and General Advertiser.
As the title suggests, the Advocate was set up to voice the concerns of Northlanders. Its stated purpose was to redress "the real criminal injustice the northern settlements laboured under from the legislature of the colony".
The Advocate quickly established itself. Initially it was issued weekly. It had 12 pages and carried a small section printed in Māori. It probably started daily publication in 1902 in response to the setting up of another newspaper in Whangarei, the Northern Chronicle.
The Advocate had various rivals over the years. In 1891 there was the Kamo and Hikurangi Gazette which probably only lasted a year. A potentially serious competitor emerged in 1902 - the Northern Chronicle. The publisher of this paper was Francis Mander. Mander, the father of the author Jane Mander, was a local MP and businessman. However before the Chronicle got established, Mander acquired the Advocate and closed the Chronicle. For a short time in the 1900s there were two daily newspapers in Whangarei besides the Advocate. These were the Whangarei County Press (1905-1908?) and the Northern Mail (1908-1914?). Whangarei could not support three newspapers and The Press closed down almost immediately. The Mail and the Advocate enjoyed a lively rivalry until 1914 when the owners of the Mail acquired the Advocate. The new owners formed the Northern Advocate Co. and closed the Mail.
The Advocate is still the daily newspaper in Whangarei.