New York Times sends subscriber email to 8.6 million readers instead of 300

New York Times | BetaBeat | @yurivictor | GigaOm | Storify by Elana Zak
The New York Times has determined that a mass email sent to subscribers was an error, not the result of spam or hacking.

“We regret that the error was made, but no one’s security has been compromised,” spokeswoman Eileen Murphy told the Times.

The Times emailed a correction note to readers and also posted a note on its homepage about the error.

The email, which I received around 1:15 p.m., contains “Important information regarding your subscription,” according to the subject line, and offers a special home delivery rate for subscribers who recently cancelled. Times spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades Ha initially told the paper the message was spam, but “others familiar with The Times’s technical operations said it was unclear whether it was spam or possibly an erroneous mass e-mail.”

Times reporter Amy Chozick tweeted at 3:29 p.m.: ” ‘The email was sent by the NYT,’ a spokeswoman said. Should’ve gone to appx 300 people & went to over 8 mil.” The email went to 8.6 million people who have given the paper their email addresses.

Yuri Victor, the Washington Post’s user experience director, traced the email sender to IP addresses owned by Epsilon Marketing. “It looks as though @nytimes gave Epsilon permission to send emails on its behalf. So this was likely just a mistake,” he tweets. “It was likely meant to go to a specific email group (cancels) and someone checked send to all by accident. Just a guess.” Tracking by Colleen Taylor at GigaOm also led back to Epsilon, which was hacked last March in a security breach that exposed thousands of customer email addresses. Epsilon spokesperson Jessica Simon told BetaBeat about the Times email, “This is the first I’ve heard of it. Let me talk with our email group and get back to you.”

The Times says the email was not sent by Epsilon, but by a Times employee, who appears to have made the type of mistake Victor described.

The paper sent a follow-up email to subscribers Wednesday afternoon. It reads:

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

The original email reads:

Dear Home Delivery Subscriber,

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.*

Continue your subscription and you’ll keep your free, unlimited digital access, a benefit available only for our home delivery subscribers. You’ll receive unlimited access to NYTimes.com on any device, full access to our smartphone and iPad® apps, plus you can now share your unlimited access with a family member.

To continue your subscription call 1-877-698-0025 and mention code 38H9H (Monday–Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. E.D.T.).

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  • Anonymous

    the NYT is not fit for bird cage liner,  they should be paying ME to read their garbage

  • Anonymous

    For the inconvenience, the Times should honor the offer of 16 weeks at 50% off to any subscriber to got the e-mail and wants it. That’s the problem with these kind of mistakes; the companies just ignore their own mistakes but if you as a customer happen to click on the wrong thing and order the wrong thing, you are stuck.

  • Anonymous

    I got these too. I was confused since I didn’t have a Times sub.

  • Anonymous

    What disturbed me was their immediate impulse to declare it spam and deny it came from them. For one thing, even if someone else had sent it, it really wouldn’t have been spam. But second, they basically said, we don’t care what the truth is; we’re going to cover our ass.

  • Anonymous

    the phone line was busy when i called, but a recording gave several options, including call back later OR respond by e-mail. however, the e-mail address given by the recording did NOT work.  sigh.

  • http://www.intrinsicstrategy.com FrankCatalano

    Somehow, I think despite the correction (which I also received) and the fact this wasn’t a third party misrepresenting itself as the Times, this is going to go down in the annals of email as “self-inflicted spam.”

  • http://www.poynter.org Poynter

    Mine arrived a few minutes ago. It’s posted above. –Julie

  • http://www.poynter.org Poynter

    Mine arrived a few minutes ago. It’s posted above. –Julie

  • http://twitter.com/benknight8 ben knight

    You believe anything. Sending a “follow-up” e mail is probably not going to happen, obviously.

  • http://twitter.com/benknight8 ben knight

    You believe anything. Sending a “follow-up” e mail is probably not going to happen, obviously.

  • http://www.poynter.org Poynter

    It confused me too. My digital subscription is about to end, so I figured they meant to send me an email about that but sent the print subscriber notice instead. I imagine most people (not working in media) just deleted it and didn’t give it much thought. –Julie

  • http://www.intrinsicstrategy.com FrankCatalano

    I was among the confused (though I didn’t call). Had cancelled my NYT subscription tied to the email address that received the rogue email, but it was months ago (not “recently requested”). Yet recently, my wife had re-subscribed using her email address. At one point we thought it was spam due to the “@newyorktimes.com” from: address, rather than “@nytimes.com.” Certainly raised our awareness of the Times.

  • http://profiles.google.com/rp509855 Rod Paul

    How many subscribers will cancel and demand the cut-rate deal??? Seems they’re entitled to it.

  • http://profiles.google.com/rp509855 Rod Paul

    How many subscribers will cancel and demand the cut-rate deal??? Seems they’re entitled to it.

  • http://www.octechnophile.com David Amodt

    how many subscriptions will be lost by this stunt i wonder

  • http://www.octechnophile.com David Amodt

    how many subscriptions will be lost by this stunt i wonder

  • http://www.poynter.org Poynter

    Probably not many since the phone service was dysfunctional/overwhelmed by confused callers! –Julie

  • http://www.poynter.org Poynter

    Probably not many since the phone service was dysfunctional/overwhelmed by confused callers! –Julie

  • http://www.intrinsicstrategy.com FrankCatalano

    So how many new subscriptions did the “error” result in?

  • Anonymous

    reminds me of the “We want you back” spam I just received from Time Mag. Marked as spam, Time.