News websites have always struggled with any one-size-fits-all approach to stories. A format which works for a 6,000-word feature is not going to work well for a 150-word brief. Web designers have known this for years, but still news sites tend to put all of their stories into exactly the same template—and increasingly that template is designed for ambitious longform storytelling. Which, of course, generally accounts for only a tiny fraction of the material on the site.
Addendum (5/22/2014): Joshua Benton:
A traditional story—lede, nut graf, quote, background, kicker—can work perfectly well in some contexts. But you wouldn’t want that to be the only format you can pour knowledge into. Some things deserve to be much longer; some deserve to be much shorter; some deserve to be two sentences and a chart; some deserve to be a video.
To broadly overgeneralize, a lot of outlets have less of a problem going long than they do going short. The New York Times’s lovely article templates, for instance, look downright strange when there’s breaking news and someone posts a one-sentence story. It’s a valuable, timely nugget of information—but it’s surrounded with the same visual pomp and circumstance as a 5,000-word investigation.