The truth is that WoW has never consistently rewarded players for running dungeons or raids. I still get a little involuntary curl to my lip anytime I think about Burning Crusade-era heroics, particularly Magister's Terrace, and how often I ran them trying to get some piece of gear, and how often my groups wiped and nothing I needed dropped anyway (and all those useless PvP gems).
I agree it's frustrating to run LFR and only get gold, though I did have to sit down and think about why, in particular. After all, I killed Saurfang in Icecrown for probably upwards of three months before I finally got the Mag'hari Chieftain's Staff. During all that time it never occurred to me that my failure to receive loot was an indication that the entire system needed an overhaul. After a couple minutes ruminating, though, I think the answer is pretty obvious: loot is the only real reason to run LFR (with the exception of just experiencing content, for those who may not have the opportunity to raid otherwise).