part of a French newspaper devoted to light literature and criticism (usually at the bottom of a page and separated by a rule), 1845, from French feuilleton (18c.), literally "a leaflet (added to a newspaper)," diminutive of feuille "leaf," from Latin folium (from PIE root *bhel- (3) "to thrive, bloom").
Esp. applied in F. to the short story or serial with which newspapers filled up after the fall of Napoleon left them short of war news. This was the beginning of Dumas' and Eugène Sue's long novels. [Weekley]
In reference to writing style, suggestive of showiness and superficiality.