What is a Broad Tape

A broad tape is the modern version of the ticker tape produced by the Dow Jones news. Ticker tape was originally printed on wide paper that was five inches across and contained the Dow Jones and Wall Street Journal tickers. Due to its broad size across, it was referred to as broad tape tickers. 

BREAKING DOWN Broad Tape

Today’s broad tape is posted on a screen in the boardroom of an investment firm. The broad tape provides a continual stream of investment, financial and business information for investors and brokers.

The broad tape is widely available to investors and professionals in many forms. It can be found both on television and on the internet, as well as through private subscription. However, it is prohibited on the floors of the exchanges in order to prevent traders from reacting to the news faster than the public.

Broad tape tickers can be traced back to 1882, when Charles and Edward Jones first began a business news enterprise. At that time, the updates of the Dow Jones Industrial Averages were called flimsies, which were sheets of carbon paper that a clerk would write on by pressing very hard to produce up to 24 flimsies copies. Eventually, by 1897, the Dow Jones started producing separate flimsies for financial news and stock market quotes, which were sent out on narrow tape. Thus, the broad tape was used to create a visual distinction between the two different types of financial information.

History of the Broad Tape

Before electricity, the first stock market tickers were handwritten and distributed by messengers, who were tasked with delivering the tickers to financial professionals on Wall Street. When electricity was first discovered, machines were installed throughout Wall Street to transmit the information and print broad tape tickers instead of having them handwritten and hand-delivered. The message for the ticker was transmitted via a wire and then the paper was printed out to the waiting hands of a broker or other financial professional. The machines were  distinctive. The Wall Street Journal reported that they were remembered as resembling tiny upright coffins that were also very noisy. The noise of the broad tape ticker machines became a backdrop to the industry and many claimed that the constantly-printing tickers helped keep everyone energized.  

Broad tape ticker machines existed all the way up until around 2017 but have now all been replaced by computers and electronic screens, although vintage collectors may still find them of interest.