The New York Times, whose website and e-mail systems crashed this morning, said the outage was caused by an internal malfunction with its servers, signaling that it wasn’t the result of a suspected hacker attack.
Service was restored this afternoon after an outage of more than two hours. “We have no reason to believe it was anything other than an internal issue,” said Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for New York Times Co.
Fox Business, the network owned by Rupert Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox Inc., reported that the site had been hacked, suggesting that it was the victim of a denial-of-service attack. Fox Business cited an unidentified source close to the matter.
The Times has been increasingly focusing on its website for growth as the industry reels from a print advertising slump. Digital subscribers to the Times and its international edition increased 35 percent to 699,000 at the end of the last quarter. The company averaged about 14 new paying online readers every hour from the beginning of January to the end of June.
After the site came back up, the publisher splashed an apology notice to readers near the top of its home page.
“Our website was unavailable for a period of time earlier today,” the Times wrote. “The outage occurred within seconds of a scheduled maintenance update, which we believe was the cause. We are working on fully restoring service and apologize for any inconvenience.”
The Times has also sold off assets unrelated to the Times media brand, including the Boston Globe newspaper, increasing its dependence on its flagship website. Red Sox baseball owner John Henry agreed to buy the Globe from the Times earlier this month for $70 million in cash.
To cope with today’s outage, which came during a crackdown on Egyptian protests and the sentencing of former U.S. House Representative Jesse Jackson Jr., the Times posted full stories on its Facebook page -- an unusual step.
Some staffers made light of the disruption on Twitter. The newspaper’s opinion section said if the site remained down, it was “ready to tweet op-eds and editorials in 140-character increments.”
Ravi Somaiya, a reporter at the paper, wrote: “I pressed this big, red button marked ‘DO NOT PRESS’ in the office earlier. Should I not have?”
News Corp.’s Dow Jones, meanwhile, sought to capitalize on the outage. The Wall Street Journal publisher offered free access to WSJ.com for a 2-hour period.