Oops! N.Y. Times Cancels Its Own Home Subscribers (Updated)

An e-mail intended for 300 was sent to more than 8 million

Last Updated: December 28, 2011 @ 2:28 PM

Updated 1:44 p.m. ET:

The New York Times sent an e-mail to millions of readers Wednesday afternoon apologizing for an earlier errant message. At around 10:30 a.m. PT, the Times sent an e-mail asking various readers — subscribers and non-subscribers — to reconsider cancelling their subscriptions.

Only about 300 people had done so, but the e-mail went out en masse and many were confused as to why they got it. Once the problem was figured out, the next question was when the Times would alert those not feverishly checking Twitter.

Here is that follow-up:

"Dear New York Times Reader,

You may have received an e-mail today from The New York Times with the subject line 'Important information regarding your subscription.'

This e-mail was sent by us in error. Please disregard the message. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.

Sincerely,

The New York Times"

Earlier:

Subscribers to the New York Times print edition received a puzzling e-mail Wednesday morning.

They were asked to reconsider canceling their home-delivery subscriptions — even though no such cancellations were ever requested. Even more confusing, the email also was sent to those who don't have a home subscription to the Times.

Initially the Times insisted it did not send the e-mail, which came from the address "[email protected]" The paper quickly posted a four-graph story on its website saying the email was false, and tweeted: “If you received an email today about canceling your NYT subscription, ignore it. It’s not from us.”

However, it later acknowledged the error, issuing this statement:

"An email was sent earlier today from The New York Times in error. This email should have been sent to a very small number of subscribers, but instead was sent to a vast distribution list made up of people who had previously provided their email address to The New York Times. We regret the error."

The Times' own Amy Chozick reported that the Times intended to send the message to about 300 people but instead disseminated it to more than 8 million.

The email arrived in readers' inboxes around 1:30 p.m. ET, promising a 50 percent cut in their rate if they re-subscribed. It also reminded readers that losing the subscription would cost them unlimited digital access.

Also Read: Top N.Y. Times Staffers Pen Angry Letter to Publisher 

It read in part:

Our records indicate that you recently requested to cancel your home delivery subscription. Please keep in mind when your delivery service ends, you will no longer have unlimited access to NYTimes.com and our NYTimes apps. 

We do hope you’ll reconsider. 

As a valued Times reader we invite you to continue your current subscription at an exclusive rate of 50% off for 16 weeks. This is a limited-time offer and will no longer be valid once your current subscription ends.*

It also gave a phone number to call, and a code to give, to continue subscriptions. Dialing the phone number brought an error sound.

The apparent flub by the Times caused an immediate stir on Twitter with the insular cabal of media reporters all wondering what happened — while also keeping a sense of humor.

Reuters’ Anthony DeRosa tweeted “Looks like the person sending spam emails under the guise of the @NYTimes may have used this service to do it :mailsafe100.com/ms/control.asp…"

PaidContent founder Rafat Ali tweeted “Conspiracy theory: real error. RT @torrez: @rafat it was sent to my NYTimes specific email address. One I created for signing up NYTimes,” and then “Or was the subscription system of NYT hacked into? Or just human error? Doesn't look spam on first glance & headers say too.”

AllThingsD’s media reporter Peter Kafka: “Oh wow. Midweek holiday newz hounds all *over* rogue NYT sub email! Go get em, dogs!"

Such is life as the Gray Lady.

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