NYTimes offers discounts in mistaken email gaffe

Dec 29, 2011

(AP) -- In today's digital age, it's easy to send out an email by mistake - even for a company that's in the business of communication.

The thought it was sending an email to a few hundred people who had recently canceled subscriptions, offering them a 50 percent discount for 16 weeks to lure them back.

Instead, Wednesday's offer went to 8.6 million email addresses of people who had given them to the Times.

That was the first mistake. The second came when the Times tweeted this: "If you received an email today about canceling your NYT subscription, ignore it. It's not from us."

But the Times did send the original email, Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy 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 to The New York Times. We regret the error," Murphy said in an email.

"The initial was in error and we regret the mistake," she added.

The damage had already been done, however.

Many people called or wrote in. The newspaper initially honored the discount, even to people who were already paying full price and had no plans to cancel. Murphy said the newspaper stopped giving out discounts to people who received the email in error by early afternoon. She did not say how much the gaffe cost the company or specify how many people contacted the newspaper.

A parody Twitter account called (at)NYTSpam amassed 152 followers by Wednesday afternoon by making fun of the slip-up. The account's description of itself says: "Parody account. Not affiliated with (at) or actual -- just sick of bad digital strategy."

The newspaper has made big strides in raising revenue from digital subscriptions. It says it has gained 324,000 since restricting full online access to paying subscribers in March.

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