2023 the year of the RSS reader for email newsletters?

27 December 2022

While I trawl Twitter, Instagram, and other aggregator sites for news and information, I still also use Really Simple Syndication (RSS)… yes, I hear the laughter. If I had my way though, I’d rely solely on RSS, where every channel I peruse could be pulled into a single, convenient, interface. Trust me, reading the whole internet is so much easier when you only have to look at the one screen.

RSS, which, by the way, is really simple once you get the hang of it, allows you to read the content of any website, or social media platform for that matter, offering a RSS feed. But not everyone saw RSS as simple, and consequentially the technology has been out of mainstream favour for some time now. RSS developers were also at loggerheads as to the direction the syndication technology should take, while publishers were uncertain as to how they could monetise content served via RSS.

I’m also subscribed to about half a dozen newsletters, but I struggle to keep up with the many and myriad newsletters presently in circulation. And still some people say we’ve not yet reached “peak newsletter”. Really? I reached peak newsletter at least ten years ago. Having said that, I have vague plans to publish a newsletter here, but I’m not sure I want to inflict yet another newsletter on the world, as there’s surely enough of them already.

Imagine though you could read all your email newsletters by way of a RSS app. But you wouldn’t be seeing a web version of a particular email newsletter, something a provider like Mailchimp makes available. Instead, an email newsletter RSS app would pull the content of all the newsletters from your email in-box, and funnel them into the email RSS app. You’d then see your email subscriptions displayed in the same way as the RSS feeds of any websites you subscribe to are.

An email newsletter RSS reader just might make browsing all those newsletters a little more manageable. And the idea’s not so far-fetched either, says Nikki Usher, writing for NiemanLab, who thinks such an app is possible, various technical issues notwithstanding:

I predict that these people won’t stand for a universe where their email becomes ever more crowded just because of Elon Musk mucking up Twitter. The only way to survive in a world where multiple DC-insider publications are launching multiple newsletters and Twitter is no longer socially acceptable is to use an RSS reader that satisfies the intelligentsia and political elite.

Will we get it? It may well be that the feed from email to robust RSS reader needs an API that isn’t yet possible, given password-protected, your-and-Gmail’s-eyes-only email. RSS readers may need their own ecology of analytics in order to be commercially desirable and worthy of tech investment.

Might then 2023 be the year of RSS? Even if it is for email newsletters? It seems like a big call, but I’m watching this space. Might the current malaise towards the today’s centralised internet see RSS return to favour? Again, a big call, but who knows.


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