Like most people in 2023, I love receiving Content. Unlike most people in 2023, I have felt for a long time that Email is under-appreciated. I am glad to see the cultural tides turning against the blight that is Instant Messaging. I rarely want to instantly respond to anything, and even the ability to do so creates an anxiety-inducing expectation in my mind.

When we started seeing email newsletter companies pop up as serious new media contenders around 2016, I felt validated in recognizing Email as a great distribution channel. It is the slow communication platform that newspapers might have been 40 years ago, it's the thing you wake up and check over coffee while your brain stretches. When companies like Ghost and Substack started commodifying this distribution channel a few years later, I felt further validated in recognizing that most of these companies didn't need teams of software developers to maintain their delivery (I spent a stint in both media and marketing software)

That being said, I think the little email renaissance we experienced from 2019 to 2021 has unfortunately hurt both our ability to consume Content at our own pace in comfort, and it's hurt Email as a channel. The 1500 Substacks you accidentally subscribed to during the pandemic are only slightly better than spam if you constantly leave them unread for the rainy day when you have time to read 7 hours of album reviews.

A few months ago I decided to tame this problem for myself, because it was making it hard to receive information I do intermittently want, but just not in the same place where I talk to my friends and organize social gatherings. My mind immediately went my RSS reader, which I have lovingly maintained since around the time I was in the 8th grade.

I initially considered building my own email to RSS bridge, but quickly found It's simple enough that it almost doesn't warrant explaining, but basically the site generates an inbox for a given feed you want to generate, and you hand that email over to whatever Substack you want to subscribe to. This even works for systems where you need to create an account in order to receive emails, like, with the added benefit of allowing you to share the generated RSS feed with friends[1].

I haven't found a way to get this to work with paid Substacks yet, since they send emails to your account email and I don't want to create a new account, but this is likely on purpose since I imagine Substack has seen what people do with pirating Patreon RSS content.

This is a silly simple change to my Content setup but its yielded a much cleaner inbox and a higher probability that I actually look at the travel deals, album reviews, set recaps, and engineering blog posts that I subscribe to.

  1. Some people will quickly recognize this as a potential security issue as well. Caveat Emptor.] ↩︎

Taming The Newsletter Beast