NY Times Apologizes for 'Spam' Email Warning of Subscription End

By Ben Fractenberg on December 28, 2011 5:31pm 

The New York Times building in Midtown.
The New York Times building in Midtown.
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Flickr/Matt Hutchinson

MANHATTAN — The Gray Lady left readers scratching their heads on Wednesday, after sending out a barrage of conflicting information about an email warning millions of subscribers that their paper delivery was about to end.

The New York Times issued a mea culpa for the brief panic, after the company mistakenly sent emails to more than 8 million people falsely informing them they had canceled their home delivery.

"Our records indicate that you recently requested to cancel your home delivery subscription," read the email that was sent to 8.6 million readers about 1:30 p.m. "Please keep in mind when your delivery service ends, you will no longer have unlimited access to NYTimes.com and our NYTimes apps."

The email then offered recipients an "exclusive rate" of "50% off for 16 weeks" to continue delivery.

At 2:01 p.m., the paper wrote on Twitter that that the email was not sent by them.

But after panicked readers began calling the paper and writing on Twitter in fear that their personal information might have been hacked, The Times changed its tune and said the email was indeed sent by one of their employees.

“We regret that the error was made, but no one’s security has been compromised," said Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy in a story published on their website at 2:29 p.m. “We regret that the error was made, but no one’s security has been compromised."

Even with the explanation, confusion reigned about what had happened.

"If you got an email from NYTimes today, it's spam due to a big security breach. I guess my email's been hacked, dammit." tweeted @sclarsic after the paper published their story about the email.

The Times then sent an email to their readers just after 4:30 p.m. explaining the mess-up.

"You may have received an e-mail today from The New York Times with the subject line 'Important information regarding your subscription,'" the email said.  "This e-mail was sent by us in error. Please disregard the message. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused."

A notice may also appear on the paper's homepage, Murphy said.

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