We had mistakenly thought mouse scrolling (via scrollwheels or trackpads) and keyboard shortcuts were enough for story navigation—an overly optimistic expectation to say the least. News web sites may indeed become more application-like and readers may grow accustomed to swiping instead of scrolling. But they’re not there yet, as the extensive criticism of the sidebar made clear.
Back when the now almost universally panned redesign was first unveiled, the usual posse and myself had a discussion on Gawkers rather non-traditional new layout. The scrollbar is a good first step, but the real challenge for Gawker will be to get their fancy AJAX layout to load in a reasonable, fast, predictable way and ensuring the back button works properly.