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2 min read

How to read newsletters without clogging up your inbox

By Justin Pot · May 27, 2021
Hero image with an icon of an envelope (email)

Newsletters are the new blog. Most of the web's best essays and curation have moved to the inbox, for tech and economic reasons I won't break down here. The problem: some of us don't like reading things in our inbox. 

I, personally, like the idea of newsletters, but I don't like mixing my list of things to read with my list of messages that need responses. It makes Inbox Zero borderline impossible to get to, and it's also terrible if you use your inbox as a to-do list. So I've been working on ways to keep newsletters out of my inbox. Here's what I found. 

Use an RSS reader instead

Newsletters are arguably replacing RSS, and that makes sense—it's a great technology that never caught on with most users. But I still love my RSS reader and will mourn Google Reader's passing until the day I die. And there are great RSS reader apps out there that you can use to keep up with newsletters. 

Substack is the fastest-growing platform for newsletters, and Substack offers RSS feeds. Just add /feed to the end of the URL for the publication (for example, https://example.substack.com/feed).

If you're not looking at a Substack newsletter, no problem. You can easily find the RSS feed for any website, and those tips should apply to most newsletters as well, assuming the newsletters also live on a website. 

If you can't find an RSS feed, Kill the Newsletter is a free service that can turn any newsletter into a feed. The service gives you a custom email address that you can use to sign up for any newsletter, then an RSS feed that turns every email received into a post. It works well, though newsletters with a lot of formatting sometimes get messy. 

A screenshot of Kill the Newsletter

Not ready to use an RSS reader? If you're a Pocket or Instapaper user, I'd consider using Zapier's RSS integration to automatically save newsletter articles for reading later. Here are some ways to get started.

Save new items in RSS feeds to Pocket

Save new items in RSS feeds to Pocket
  • RSS by Zapier logo
  • Pocket logo
RSS by Zapier + Pocket

Zapier is a no-code automation tool that lets you connect your apps into automated workflows, so that every person and every business can move forward at growth speed. Learn more about how it works.

Use Gmail filters 

Maybe you don't mind reading newsletters in Gmail, but you don't want them in your actual inbox. You can automatically sort them into their own label using Gmail filters. Just set up filters for each of your newsletters, so messages skip the inbox and end up under the appropriate label. Here's me setting that up for The New York Times' daily letter:

Setting up a Gmail filter

As you can see, I'm searching for the email address associated with the newsletter. You can make similar filters for all of your newsletters, then read everything in the same place. 

Set up a dedicated address for newsletters

If the above tips don't work, there's one more thing you could try: set up a dedicated email address for newsletters. We recommend this for junk email, but it could also work for newsletters you actually want. 

It's very easy to set up a new Gmail, Outlook, or other email address. Do that, and use it to sign up for all newsletters (instead of using your actual email address). Log in to that address when you're ready to do some reading, without seeing any emails from your boss or in-laws. I highly recommend it. 

Email newsletters aren't going away anytime soon, and there really are some wonderful ones. Don't let your aversion to reading things in your inbox keep you from reading. 

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