Nearly 9 million people got a puzzling email from The New York Times today, but fears of a massive hack are apparently unfounded.
The email message asked subscribers to reconsider canceling their home delivery service. The email also offered subscribers a significant discount to continue their service.
The Huff Post informs that it was sent from the address firstname.lastname@example.org. The message was the following:
“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 iPadÂ® 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.).”
Turns out, it was good old-fashioned human error. According to the Newser, the newspaper meant to send the email only to a few hundred people who had recently canceled home delivery, but it instead went out to anyone who had ever provided an email address to the paper.
Although some of the email’s more than 8 million recipients and members of the paper’s staff have suggested that the email was the result of someone outside of The Times, a spokesperson for The Times said in a statement that it was in fact the result of a simple error.
“An email was sent earlier today from The New York Times in error,” the statement said. “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.”
Earlier on Wednesday, the New York Times twitter account had tweeted, “If you received an email today about canceling your NYT subscription, ignore it. It’s not from us.”
The paper’s email service provider, Epsilon, got hacked earlier this year, leading many to speculate early in the day that today’s email was some kind of phishing scheme.
Later the Times also sent a correction email to all of its subscribers, apologizing for any confusion the email may have caused.
One Twitter user has reacted to the incident with a NYT Spam Twitter account that spouts one-liners such as “Yo, does anyone want, like an iPad? Tooth whitening, maybe?”
In little more than an hour of existence, the account has collected followers who are reporters at The Washington Post, Associated Press, and, yes, The New York Times.