The American Society of Magazine Editors announced their 2013 National Magazine Awards last week. The big winners (New Yorker, Esquire, etc) have defined the best in magazine writing, editing and design for years. So kudos to them. All have embraced and invested heavily in digital publishing.

While this year’s finalists are deserving, I think you can look a little deeper into the ASME finalists to discover some excellent content and maybe find some more future winners of this award. In fact, here are five picks from the 2013 finalists that will surprise you with the range of their content.:

Afar was a finalist for best Website. I love Afar because it is truly a digital experience. Completely collaborative and unpredictable. On Afar’s site and in the magazine you will find travel guides, but you will find much more immersive content than you will in other digital magazines. Example: Rather than a resort roundup for the Bahamas and features about scuba diving, on Afar you find a feature on out-islands of the Bahamas, which uncluttered by hoards of tourists. You may not have heard of Eleuthera. But after you read about it and see the photos you may want to go.

Mother Jones is always a surprise. It was nominated in the category of “Literary, Political and Professional Magazines.” It is left wing. No question about that. The politics will be a qualifier. But MJ also has excellent photo essays, and underrated arts coverage. The best coverage I read among the flood of SXSW pieces was on MJ.

Texas Monthly is not for Texans only. It has always been known for excellent photography and journalism and was nominated in the Public Interest category. It covers its home state in a surprisingly critical and objective manner, and its food writing is as good as it gets.

HGTV Magazine was nominated for best Magazine Section. In its digital iteration it offers more than you might expect. First off, it’s a surprisingly cool real estate site. Check out its HGTV Front Door section. Also, it’s a wealth of environmentally friendly gardening and home building information. There is a lot to discover and share with friends on HGTV’s digital properties.

mental_floss got to the finals for General Excellence, Print. For me it really shines in its digital version because its lists, random facts and trivia are simply endless. It is the ultimate brain teaser and Trivial Pursuit practice round. Did you know The Iron Man edition of Mr. Potato Head is named Tony Starch? Did you know F. Scott Fitzgerald was a movie critic?

Other ASME nominees on the Zinio newsstand include:

National Geographic



The Atlantic

Rolling Stone