Brighter days for Net plays

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The dot-com debacle is in full force, but the future of the Internet -- of e-marketing, of e-commerce -- has never been better. The marketing community, far from mourning the loss of easy billings or writing off the field, should focus instead on the opportunity that lies ahead and the stronger surviving players that will lead the way.

Flash back to 1910. Three dozen car companies sold about 173,000 cars in the U.S. A decade later, car buyers had their choice of some 58 brands. By 1930, 25 brands remained -- selling 15 times the number of cars sold in 1910. The market didn't emerge till the shakeout happened.

For the Internet, it is "1910," with too many dreamers and schemers betting the company on a not-yet-emerged Internet market. But the market will be real, and those who stay on the road will reap rewards.

This week's Special Report on "Dot-com dog days" (after Page 42) reviews the debacle -- and looks at the opportunity. The dot-com shakeout came as no surprise. But too much focus on its financial and marketing disasters misses the important point that the business-to-consumer Internet market is wide open, with growth and profits ahead.

Media companies have made a ton of money selling ads to dot-coms (and lost a ton of money investing in dot-com stocks). Dot-coms have slashed their marketing spending, and more cuts are ahead. The dot-com days of mayhem marketing are over.

But so what. Selected consumer Internet brands will forge ahead. Some traditional marketers finally will figure out the Net. There's never been a better time to be optimistic about opportunities in the consumer Internet space. It's a good time to be a contrarian.

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