The big trend in website redesign right now, particularly in news media, seems to be:
- Make it look like an iPad app
- Fixed left rail, maybe a drawer for good measure
- Infinite scrolling articles. As you hit the bottom you get the next Article
- Hide comments behind a button/panel/other fancy thing
- Make it look clean (i.e. hide all the ads)
Some of these things (like making it clean) are great. Most are not.
As shocking as it might be to hear, your website is not an iPad App. Also shocking is the fact that most iPad apps are not successful because they have iPad App layouts.
They are successful because most of them offer rich engagement.
In an era where Facebook and Twitter are displacing traditional news sites by putting the user/social at the center of the experience, many news orgs seem to be missing the point entirely and de-emphasizing engagement.
To be clear, though, I'm not advocating to ignore mobile. Responsive designs that ensure your site looks native to the given platform and screen size are essential. However displaying what amounts to be a big iPad app for the desktop web is just lazy and ineffective.
The answer here is not just a cleaner piece of paper or even a new layout, but rather dropping the read-only paper metaphor entirely.
Streams, social gestures, user generated content, follow, notify, meaningful conversation tools and other social experiences are the key here. Your content should be the spark of inspiration for your audience to engage, not a static, untouchable piece of paper to glance at and then throw away.
Everything else is little more than window dressing.
As a side note, if you're looking for an example of beautiful new design work, check out TED.com. Particularly the asset pages (where you watch each video). I wish YouTube looked like this.