("Kopeysk Worker") is a tiny newspaper in Kopeysk, Siberia, which
is close to Chelyabinsk, a city that received worldwide attention
earlier this year when it was hit by a
The newspaper's circulation of about 9,000 print copies is roughly
164 times smaller than that of the
Wall Street Journal
), and 81 times smaller than that of the
New York Times
), and that's not including those site's digital subscribers. And
yet neither of those media heavyweights has the free publicity
is using: photos of Hollywood's A-list stars reading its paper.
On April 1, 2011, the newspaper published a
round-up of mostly false stories
for April Fools' Day. Readers were asked to guess which piece of
news was actually true.
Only three people
voted for a brief article about Johnny Depp and his appreciation
for the small newspaper in Siberia. They were convinced by a photo
of Depp holding and supposedly reading the paper.
And they were right -- the photo was not a fake.
In fact, the publisher of
has collected a full album of celebrities including Depp, Leonardo
DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Angelina Jolie, Emma Watson, and about 15
other Hollywood personalities, each reading a copy of the
small-town paper, which is printed in Russian, of course.
full photo gallery
surfaced on the Internet this September. It went viral almost
immediately on Vkontakte, the social media site known as the
), and on other major media outlets.
So how did it all happen?
Dmitry Sogrin, the paper's editor, wrote, "For a couple of years,
we've been running movie announcements and mini-interviews with
actors.... Our friends and colleagues in Hollywood, in return, sent
us these celebrity photos."
Key to the operation is Margarita Sushkevich, a Kopeysk-born woman
who moved to the US more than a decade ago. She married Jack
Tewksbury, the Hollywood producer behind the annual Golden Globe
Awards. In 2008, the duo started submitting movie previews and star
interviews to the newspaper in Margarita's hometown.
received not only conventional photos of stars in the news, but
also personalized photos in which actors posed with hard copies of
as if they were regular readers.
Surprisingly, the paper's editors were reluctant to promote its
famous readership. Except for that April Fools' Day round-up in
2011, and a calendar that was circulated (not very widely) in late
2012, few people knew of the Kopeysk-Hollywood connection. Now,
with the attention it has received from the Web story, the paper
might reconsider its approach to marketing. It
has been reported
that the editor wants to gather 30 photos and organize an
exhibition at the local community center.
Since the photos went viral in Russia, the newspaper's website
traffic has increased fivefold -- from about 1,000 readers per day
to 5,000. Still, the editor has said that his core audience is
unlikely to change its tastes too much. "Our readers are more
interested in news about miners, retired people, and utility
costs," Sogrin said. "Hollywood stars are too far away."
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