CHICAGO (AP) -- As investors begin realizing all that glitters isn't gold in the new Internet economy, many e-businesses are suddenly finding themselves grappling with an unfamiliar concept: how to make a profit.

The annual COMDEX spring technology summit opened here Monday with the theme: "Because today, all business is e-business."But a weeklong rout on the NASDAQ Stock Market, caused in part by concerns there will be a massive shakeout among Internet companies, has reinforced the notion that not all e-business is good business.

"It's like my mother always said, 'Don't marry potential; marry what you know, marry what you believe in,' " said Maria Cina, whose privately held SuSE Inc. of Oakland, Calif., provides consulting and services surrounding the Linux computer operating system.

"I think we're going to have to resort to the old-fashioned way of doing things: having money in the bank and making investors know you have a company that's going to be around for a long time," Cina said after registering for the four-day gathering.

E-commerce companies now must come to grips with the idea that the new economy functions a lot like the old one, where only the strongest are likely to survive in a crowded marketplace, said Jon Derome, senior analyst at Yankee Group's business-to-business commerce and applications unit.

"There comes a point where it's no longer sustainable to have 600 companies with the idea of each taking in only 1 or 2 percent of the profits in their industries, and it looks like we've reached that point," Derome said. "We've been arguing for years that the Internet is about evolution, not revolution."

The usual lofty mood about Internet prospects wasn't as evident Monday at COMDEX, the first trading day since both the NASDAQ composite index and the Dow Jones industrial average suffered their worst daily point losses ever.

"I would hope that the show doesn't concentrate on what happened last Friday, although unfortunately I think it's inevitable," said Tim Gallant, president of JR Inkjet, which makes a kit to refill empty printer ink cartridges. "It's clear there's going to be a lot of companies that are going to fail . . . but that's part of small-business America, and it has been for years." But the question being bandied about Monday was: How do you avoid being one of those companies?

"E-business is more than putting a dot-com behind your name and having a Web site," said Bob Bierman, the show's manager. "You have to look at the culture of your business, the structure of your business and the very way you interact with your marketplace. People are trying to make sense of a marketplace that is going through a transition, and a way to do a lot of that is through the live interaction of shows like these." One business model getting renewed attention focuses on melding traditional retail outlets, often referred to a brick-and-mortars, with Internet sales.

The resulting "clicks-and-bricks," as such a combination is being called, would have the advantage of serving customers at their convenience as well as established physical locations for shipping goods -- doing away with a crop of third-party companies that have sprung up to fill that need. "I think people are beginning to realize the traditional retail market does have a place in today's environment -- otherwise, you don't have the capital to back it up," said Brandon Donofrio, owner of Just Ducky, a Darien, Ill., company that sells gifts and home accessories. "We're looking to buy a computer system to do business on the Internet, but our thinking is it's for inventory management and that any sales off of it are a plus."

But SuSE's Cina said no one has found the sure-fire formula for making profits off the Internet.

"That, my friend, is the question we're all trying to find the answer to," she said. "There are as many theories out there as there are problems with the current situation, but the real players will stick it out. They always do."