My first impulse when I got an e-mail offering a discounted subscription if I’d rethink my decision to cancel home delivery of the New York Times was someone on the paper’s end misunderstood a holiday stop order. Then the second one came and others started getting it too.
What’s going on? An NYT spokesperson first said it “seems to be spam” and the paper is looking into it, then someone tweeted through @nytimes: “If you received an email today about canceling your NYT subscription, ignore it. It’s not from us.”
If I’d been online and not on my phone at the time I might have realized it wasn’t legit sooner despite how official it looks — or at least that it wasn’t directly aimed at me as a subscriber. The e-mail comes from email.newyorktimes.com; my NYT invoices usually come from customer care@nytimes,com via a third-party mailer. The link goes to NYTimes.com, not a credit card fishing site so it seems innocuous enough on the consumer side. For the paper, it’s more disruptive — creating confusion and possibly leading consumers to demand the 16-week half-price discount offered in the e-mail.
If it wasn’t an in-house error, the mailing also raises the issue of customer list security and privacy — which could cause even more headaches.
Update: Looks like I hit publish too soon. After insisting the e-mail was a fake, now the paper says it was a mistake:
“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 (NYSE: NYT). We regret the error.”
So no privacy breach — but a bit of a black eye given the quick assumption internally that it had to be spam.