Bacteria depend on efficient RNA turnover, both during homeostasis and when rapidly altering gene expression in response to changes. Nevertheless, remarkably few details are known about the rate-limiting steps in targeting and decay of RNA. The membrane-anchored endoribonuclease RNase Y is a virulence factor in Gram-positive pathogens. We have obtained a global picture of Staphylococcus aureus RNase Y sequence specificity using RNA-seq and the novel transcriptome-wide EMOTE method. Ninety-nine endoribonucleolytic sites produced in vivo were precisely mapped, notably inside six out of seven genes whose half-lives increase the most in an RNase Y deletion mutant, and additionally in three separate transcripts encoding degradation ribonucleases, including RNase Y itself, suggesting a regulatory network. We show that RNase Y is required to initiate the major degradation pathway of about a hundred transcripts that are inaccessible to other ribonucleases, but is prevented from promiscuous activity by membrane confinement and sequence preference for guanosines.