The New York Times' Web site no longer features left-rail navigation on its story pages. Here's an example. Instead, it's got a new breadcrumb navigation scheme. From what I can tell, the change hasn't been implemented throughout the whole site yet, but it's on many pages. (Thanks to my friend David for the heads-up.)
I sense they made the change in order to make room for large ads on the right side of the page. Previously, the site embedded large, distracting ads in body text, making articles difficult to read. As far as I can tell from clicking through the site this evening, this practice has been discontinued on the pages that don't have a left nav.
At face value, this minor redesign seems like a positive change. But I fear the Times might've thrown the baby out with the bathwater. The lack of a left navigation bar creates a wider content area, which is either more readable or less readable, depending on whose usability study you're reading. The Times' opinion pieces are particularly wide now -- some go clear across the page.
And it's obvious that moving from section to section (e.g., from International to Technology) is significantly more difficult without a trusty sitewide-navigation bar always at your side. I get the feeling breadcrumb navigation is being relied on a bit too heavily.
Also, the fact that the Times' ads now appear outside the content area sounds like good news at first, but might it be a sneaky way of introducing even larger ads? I stumbled upon a nytimes.com page that featured a 336-by-850-pixel ad. That's, like, bigger than my face. Just because an ad isn't in the content area doesn't make it any less annoying; in fact, I'd say that humongous ad was more annoying than any other inline ad I'd seen.