Over the past 3 years, bacterial transcriptomics has undergone a massive revolution. Increased sequencing capacity and novel tools have made it possible to explore the bacterial transcriptome to an unprecedented depth, which has revealed that the transcriptome is more complex and dynamic than expected. Alternative transcripts within operons challenge the classic operon definition, and many small RNAs involved in the regulation of transcription, translation and pathogenesis have been discovered. Furthermore, mRNAs may localize to specific areas in the cell, and the spatial organization and dynamics of the chromosome have been shown to be important for transcription. Epigenetic modifications of DNA also affect transcription, and RNA processing affects translation. Therefore, transcription in bacteria resembles that in eukaryotes in terms of complexity more closely than was previously thought. Here we will discuss the contribution of 'omics' approaches to these discoveries as well as the possible impact that they are expected to have in the future.