The journalistic genre of the "Periodical Essays" or "Spectators" of Richard Steele and Joseph Addison (1709-1714) had an important influence on the communicational system of the 18th century. With its fictional aspects, it 'created' a new public of readers who were discovering their important function in the creation of a public space. In the context of the contemporary digital revolution, these 'spectatorial' texts are revealing some important features concerning the future development of communication. They announce the complex and volatile processing of information, linked to its fictional elements and to the construction of publicity. In this contribution, we are showing the historical context of this genre and its links to the digital age. In her companion piece to this contribution, Martina Semlak offers an introduction to the possibilities of representation of these texts as a digital edition (cf. http://gams.uni-graz.at/mws/).