Newsletters without email

The California Sun newsletter, forwarded to NetNewsWire.

Like many people in 2021, I suddenly find myself a paying subscriber to a bunch of email newsletters. One of the benefits of working at home is that I can spend my morning drinking tea, eating breakfast, and reading—reading newspapers, the web, social media, and those newsletters that I pay for.

Here’s a list of apps that I enjoy opening in the morning and using for reading: Slack, Safari, NetNewsWire, and various newspaper apps.

Here’s an app that I never want to open first thing in the morning and use for a pleasant reading experience: Mail.

I like newsletters in general. I like the ones I subscribe to very much. I just… don’t want to read them in email.

There are a few solutions for this problem. The most obvious one is to log in to the various websites where the newsletters reside, visit them in Safari, and read them there. Which I can do, yes, but it requires me to remember to seek them out every morning and becomes a chore. The result of that approach was that I stopped reading most of my newsletters most of the time.

But then I found a solution that worked for me, and so maybe it’ll work for you. Since the revival of NetNewsWire I’ve been slowly introducing RSS reading back into my daily routine, generally in the morning when I’m reading all those other things. Could I read my newsletter in my RSS reader?

It turns out that I could, though only a few of my newsletter subscriptions allow me to actually read the newsletter in the app. Ben Thompson’s Stratechery provides a custom RSS feed to subscribers, and works perfectly. Unfortunately, newsletters hosted at Substack (such as Cup of Coffee and Platformer) do not—there’s just a simple summary and then you have to tap through. NetNewsWire’s built-in browser remembers your login, so you only have to enter your user name and password once. And the Substack web template is perfectly pleasant.

But I really wanted to read my newsletters in the NetNewsWire interface without an extra tap. And some of my newsletters don’t offer an RSS interface of any kind. That’s when I discovered that the RSS provider FeedBin offers an email-to-RSS interface for its subscribers. Every FeedBin subscriber has a secret FeedBin email address, and if you forward your newsletters to that address, they’ll be consumed and then appear in FeedBin as if they were RSS feeds. (It even differentiates between them, giving every newsletter its own separate “feed.”) I set up Gmail to automatically forward my newsletters to FeedBin, and have been reading happily in NetNewsWire ever since.

If you find yourself subscribing to newsletters but never reading them in your email app of choice, perhaps the issue isn’t the newsletters, but rather the context in which you receive them. I love newsletters, but checking email is a drag—and reading long emails an even bigger one. But reading news in NetNewsWire works for me. My newsletter consumption has shot up as a result, and those mornings reading in bed while drinking my tea have become that much more pleasant.

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