Advertising platform C.A.S.T. wants to attract premium publishers interested in the concept of native advertising, and also interested in leveraging its possibilities through contextual and categorical targeting, among other means.

The company, which has been offering its advertising technology to its strategic partners for the last couple of years, now is bringing the platform to the broader medium- and large-size publisher market. “We see native advertising as advertising that integrates seamlessly as a very natural part of site-user behavior,” says Omer Kaplan, CEO and co-founder.

Today, native advertising is about helping publishers to have not only new but better-quality and more engaging inventory to sell to their advertisers, he says. With a native approach, ad units can be customized in terms of the placement and look of sponsored content that is related to what users are reading and what they are looking for – that is, designed with the semantics of the content in mind for a more natural flow between content and ads.

C.A.S.T.’s targeted audience of premium publishers generally “doesn’t have the technology know-how or capacity to make their own native platform within their properties, but they do want that capability,” says vp of marketing David Cohen. Whether C.A.S.T. applies its contextual/categorical or behavioral targeting algorithms depends on the nature of the publisher’s site.

One that’s already very structured with categorical information – like CNET’s Download.com site is about every software product – is a fit for the former approach. Download.com’s Spotbid advertising program is powered by C.A.S.T.’s technology, Kaplan says. “It’s a new opportunity for their advertisers to not just display banners….The units don’t look like display ads but like sponsored recommendations that are part of the site, with the same buttons, look and feel and the same user behavior as the rest of the content on the site.” Think of being able to do what Amazon does with its recommendations without having to build up the in-house resources to enable it.

For content sites “with content about many items, like a technology content site that’s not necessarily segmented by category, subject or different topics, then contextual or category-based advertising is more difficult, so you might need more behavioral targeting that is also in the system,” says Kaplan. “All the matching algorithms are tweaked to match the specific content of the site and their advertisers.”

The platform provides publishers with tools they can use to create and manage their own private marketplace, and can support all standard display units for direct advertising or third-party network connection requirements, as well.

The other end of the advertising road, Kaplan notes, “is all this programmatic buying that wants to increase the relevance of advertisers but eventually damages premium publishers that are losing the real value of their content and brand.” Somewhere along the way, the two roads will converge, he suspects, with programmatic buyers catching onto the advantages that native advertising provides.

“It should help publishers to better sell their direct display media because it gives them more tools and better engagement for advertisers,” he says.