Dot-com became part of the mainstream lexicon in 1999, getting mentioned in more than 5,600 magazine and newspaper stories -- vs. just 439 in 1998. Net-based start-ups have little revenue, huge losses -- and billions in venture capital and IPO money to burn. Much of the cash went into advertising as dot-coms struggled to break through the clutter. Dot-coms spent $1.4 billion on traditional media in the first nine months of 1999, nearly four times that of the same period last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting. A fourth-quarter explosion in advertising could take offline and online dot-com spending for the year above $3 billion, Advertising Age estimates. The advertising tends to be hip, edgy, irreverent and interchangeable -- just like dot-coms and the youthful entrepreneurs that run them. All is not swell: Media, burned by dot-coms that haven't lived up to commitments, want cash up front. Agencies, weary of dot-coms' cockiness and ever-changing plans, are more selective in signing on Net clients. Many observers expect major dot-com consolidation next year. But for all their kvetching, media and agencies aren't running away from what is -- for now -- easy pickings. "It really is a take-the-money-and-run attitude right now," one agency president explained. Before the boom goes kaboom.