I know the taste of humble pie only too well. Now that leading financial media watchers such as Financial Times, CNN Money, and PaidContent.org are warning that the subprime meltdown may hurt the online-advertising market, you might expect to find me grabbing a fork and tying on a bib.

However, you'd be wrong.

Earlier this month, I argued that when it comes to stocks related to the Internet, "its biggest stars have been immune to the subprime epidemic." At the time, some of Wall Street's biggest daily gainers were pure dot-com plays such as The Knot (NASDAQ:KNOT), while iffy lenders were taking baby steps closer to extinction.

It's easy to see why some folks are worried these days. Stung lenders such as Countrywide (NYSE:CFC) or FICO feeders such as Experian are some of the Internet's most active advertisers. If loan providers duck and cover, there won't be a need -- or the funds to bankroll -- aggressive interactive marketing campaigns.

I see the logic, but I still can't spot humble pie on the menu. Our current situation is nothing like the dot-com bubble that left markets in a sudsy mess in 2001. I also don't see a problem with many key advertisers scaling back, since their cuts may well be offset by forward marches elsewhere.

Party like its 2001
The whole 1995-to-2001 span of the dot-com boom may seem like a blur to some, but I remember the carnage perfectly. Profitless e-commerce ventures such as Pets.com, Webvan, and Buy.com buckled, taking their online marketing budgets with them. More and more cash-burning companies searched in vain for a venture-capital spigot that had long since been shut off.

It's an entirely different world these days. Leading online retailers such as Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) are deliciously profitable. Real-world brands have migrated ad campaigns online, helping diversify the pool of sponsors.

This isn't the same sector that was weighed down by unsustainable models. The companies that rely on advertising today -- as well as the sponsors themselves -- are cut from much sturdier stock. In other words, today's dot-com generation is built to last.

Sponsor like a rock star
It's also important to take this calamity in stride. Stingier creditors are a given, but the demand is still there. You've probably read plenty about collapsing subprime lenders, or even cutbacks at the conventional borrowers. Are you even aware that companies such as IndyMac Bancorp (NYSE:IMB) are in a hiring frenzy, expanding their retail lending groups to make the most of the deluge of applications?

Maybe that's why a company such as Bankrate (NASDAQ:RATE), perhaps the planet's best gauge for financial-services advertising trends, stepped up two weeks ago to announce that it's comfortable with its 2007 outlook.

Think about that. Bankrate's business revolves mostly around selling online ads and having financial institutions pay to be linked from Bankrate's listings. If there were truly a pinch in this industry, Bankrate would be the first to scream "Ouch!"

Instead, the company's holding its own. Other lenders will step up to take the slots of the fallen. More importantly for the advertising market, a serious wave of defaults will offer new marketing opportunities for credit-repair specialists, aggressive payday-loan providers, and even residential relocation plays.

If this really were a disaster, wouldn't a personal-finance site such as TheStreet.com (NASDAQ:TSCM) should be breaking out in hives? The company posted a 48% surge in advertising growth in its latest quarter.

The Internet is here to stay. It didn't offer up exotic mortgages to consumers with risky credit histories. However, it will be there as a perfectly targeted platform for advertisers seeking to capitalize on the calamity.

If online-advertising feasters such as Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), TheStreet.com, and Bankrate aren't going hungry, I'll wrap up that piece of humble pie and save it for later. If I ever have to swallow my pride, perhaps it'll make a fitting follow-up.

Amazon.com has been recommended to Stock Advisor subscribers. The Knot and Bankrate are Rule Breakers newsletter service stock selections. Free 30-day trial subscriptions are available for both stock research services. I'll throw in a free recipe for humble pie if you want it.  

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz eats his humble pie with a fork, not a spoon. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool's disclosure policy is freshly baked, with just a touch of cinnamon.