He starts off with a brief recount of Daniel Defoe's launch of his political journal, Weekly Review of the Affairs of France in 1704 (and continued till 1713). As Pettegree points out, The Review was chiefly a means for Defoe to make money.
Defoe was lucky. He had launched the Review at a time when the reading public was expanding rapidly, along with a market for current affairs. Naturally Defoe made the most of it. When, in an essay in 1712, he turned his mind to this buoyant market for news publishing, he did not hold back. The present times, wrote Defoe, had seen a media explosion. He recalled a time, even in his own lifetime, when there had been no such torrent of newspapers, state papers and political writing. The rage for news was transforming society, and Defoe was happy to be in the thick of it.
Defoe was not the only one to remark the current passion for news, and the rancorous tone of political debate that seemed to come with it. But if he truly thought this was new he was very much mistaken. The conflicts of the English Civil War over sixty years previously had stimulated a torrent of pamphlets, news reports and abusive political treatises. The first continental newspapers were established forty years before that. Long before Defoe, and even before the creation of the newspapers, the appetite for news was proverbial. ‘How now, what news?’ was a common English greeting, frequently evoked on the London stage. Travelers could buy phrase books that offered the necessary vocabulary, so they too could join the conversation: ‘What news have you? How goeth all in this city? What news have they in Spain?’
If there was a time when news first became a commercial commodity, it occurred not in Defoe’s London, or even with the invention of the newspaper, but much earlier: in the eighty years between 1450 and 1530 following the invention of printing. During this period of technological innovation, publishers began to experiment with new types of books, far shorter and cheaper than the theological and scholarly texts that had dominated the market in manuscripts. These pamphlets and broadsheets created the opportunity to turn the existing appetite for news into a mass market. News could become, for the first time, a part of popular culture.