Some 8.6 million people received a weird, unprompted email about their New York Times subscriptions this afternoon—regardless of whether or not they had subscriptions at all. The email was initially reported to be a hack.
The email looks like the boilerplate sent to customers who have cancelled home delivery.
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.
New York Times media reporter Amy Chozick, who might as well be speaking for the institution, reports that the email was sent by the Times, even though the newspaper initially denied responsibility.
The New York Times said it accidentally sent e-mails on Wednesday to more than eight million people who had shared their information with the company, erroneously informing them they had canceled home delivery of the newspaper.
The Times Company, which initially mischaracterized the mishap as spam, apologized for sending the e-mails. The 8.6 million readers who received the e-mails represent a wide cross-section of readers who had given their e-mails to the newspaper in the past.
At 4:37, about three hours after the initial email, the spammed email addresses received the following message from the New York Times.
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.
Confusion is right! After the initial email was sent, the internet erupted into a pandemonium of Twitter chatter and speculation even as no one really seemed to have any idea what the hell was going on. Some outlets reported that the emails were coming from compromised servers belonging to Epsilon Interactive, a third-party marketing service which the New York Times uses to communicate with customers. We now know that the email came from a Times employee.