An Archive of Our Own, one of the big fanfic sites, is working on implementing “subscriptions,” where you can designate particular authors (or fandoms or tags or what-have-you) and be informed when new stories get posted.
It occurs to me that, as more and more short fiction publishing moves online, how useful this could be. I mean, I post links when stories of mine go up, so if you read my LJ you hear about those things. But that requires you to follow a bunch of different separate feeds, and it buries the story links in the noise of everything else you read. Maybe some online ‘zines tag their stories in a way that allows you to tell Google Reader or whatever, tell me whenever Clarkesworld publishes a Cat Valente story — I don’t know; I haven’t tried — but if she then publishes a story in Lightspeed instead, you won’t know about it. How technically difficult would it be to create an aggregator site that covers all the online ‘zines (ending at whatever bar the site’s operator chooses), and then once you pick an author from their database, notifies you whenever that author publishes something, wherever it might be? I have no idea; IANenough of a webgeek to do that kind of thing myself. I imagine it would require some amount of cooperation from the publisher’s side, tagging the pages according to the aggregator’s requirements, etc. The benefit, however, is that it drives traffic to your site; and if I discover a lot of the writers I’ve subscribed to are being published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, I might start checking out who else they print, because clearly that place fits my taste. (Heck, print magazines could even benefit, with a blog that advertises the latest ToC.)
I dunno — maybe it would weaken the sense of loyalty to particular publications in favor of the writers. We still haven’t solved the problem of funding online magazines, and if something like this makes it harder for Strange Horizons to raise money, etc, because people are no longer self-identifying as “SH readers” but readers of one author or another, then that would be a problem. But if you really like Aliette de Bodard’s Xuya stories, it would be neat to have something automatically alert you when one of them pops up, even if it’s in a place you don’t normally look. It seems to me this fits with the a la carte trend I’m seeing in how we consume media: Tivo to pull down the programs we want to watch, iTunes selling us individual tracks instead of whole albums, etc. I’m reading some serialized stories online, and I know having new chapters pop up in my reader, without me having to go check for updates, is damned convenient. If short story publishing in general had something like this, I’d use it in a heartbeat.